(Difference between) British and American technical writing style?

Subject: (Difference between) British and American technical writing style?
From: Yosuke Ichikawa <ichikawayosuke -at- obun -dot- co -dot- jp>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 07 Feb 2002 20:50:27 +0900

Is there any difference between British and American technical writing
styles? If so, what sort of difference?

Obviously, spelling of some words would be different, and I know I should
avoid idiomatic phrases that the audience may feel awkward with, but besides
that, would the actual writing *style* be different?

Is there a style manual or an FAQ, preferably found on the web, with a
section that specifically addresses such matters?

Our prospective client is a Japanese software manufacturer who wants to sell
its product in Britain, and I'm told they want their manual to be written in
"Queen's English".

I'm a Japanese-native tech writer working for a printing firm, who writes in
my own language and in English. I've lived for a few years in the US as a
kid, so while I don't write as well as you native writers, I'm received as a
so-so English writer for a non-native by our clients. (Besides, for this
job, they need a writer who can communicate with the engineers in Japanese.)

I don't know how serious this new client is about adopting the British
style, nor whether they have a specific writing style in mind; we're still
at a very early stage, and I haven't had a chance to talk to these people.

My boss wants to know if I'd do it, if we get the job. I told him something
like "I'll watch for spelling and try to avoid colloquialism and
informalities to the best of my knowledge, but other than that, it may turn
out that the writing style itself is not that different, since this is a
technical operation manual and we're not writing prose."

But of course I'm not certain about this; and where else should I be asking
than the techwhirl list?

If I end up writing this, it would be best if a British native would review
it; unfortunately for this case, our "native checker" is an American.

The product is a plug-in for a DTP software, and if we do get the job, we'd
be making a tutorial and a reference guide.


I did search the list archives before I asked. "Summary of UK Style Guides"
by Grace Fielder, posted 28 Nov 2000, and "Responses to web style guide
question" by William Rost, posted 10 Oct 1997 were informative; but I wasn't
able to find a source that specifically answered my question.

Besides my question about difference in writing style, I'd appreciate any
advice you may have if I'm to write to a British audience (quite
frightening, come to think of it).

Thank you in advance for any input.

Yosuke Ichikawa
Tech writer
Obun Printing

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