Style and Procedure Schema?

Subject: Style and Procedure Schema?
From: "Trese, Timothy G." <Timothy -dot- G -dot- Trese -at- SAICSeals -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 2002 09:52:11 -0500

I, for one, am SICK of the meta-discourse posted on this list for the
last two or three days. Instead of TALKING ABOUT TALKING ABOUT [sic] the
subject of TECHWR-L, can we get back to just talking TALKING ABOUT the
subject of TECHWR-L, please?

And in that spirit, permit me submit for your consideration a subject
I've been thinking about for a while, in the hopes that it will provoke
relevant comments, put-downs, witticisms, and general return to the
matter at hand:

Observation:
Standards are being produced by working groups that gain broad
acceptance within an industry and allow everyone to operate more
efficiently. E.G.s would be W3C, OMG, the Open Source Project, etc.
These are examples from software, but my guess is that it mirrors a
broader trend facilitated by new communication media, and the
realization that under proper certain circumstances, everybody wins by
creating one universal solution rather than a bunch of little
proprietary ones.

Extrapolation (What it means to technical writers):
Suppose a working group of technical writers got together and developed
a universal schema for something we all use: Style and Procedure
manuals. Now, granted, no two industries or companies have the same
CONTENT in their TW Style and Procedure manuals, but they all have the
same TYPES of content and they could be structured very similarly. What
would happen if every Style Manual or Procedure Manual for technical
writers followed the same template and order of content?

As a minimum, it would allow greater mobility across the trade for
people moving from business to business or industry to industry. It
would enable new hires and recent grads to know exactly where to go for
local directives on style and procedures, reducing training time. It
facilitates communication; on the list, we could all discuss the same
section of the schema, and there would be no question about what was
being discussed. At the STC conference, presenters could identify what
sections of the schema they would discuss. Small businesses and short
term contracts that don't have resources to develop good TW
infrastructure could grab what they needed out of a central repository,
knowing right where to look. (This is the situation I'm in currently,
which is what got me to thinking.) And so on.

My questions to TECHWR-L:
1. What other benefits are there to a TW Style and Procedure Schema?
2. What, if any, are the disadvantages?
3. Is this something that could be undertaken by a working group under
the auspices of an existing sanctioning body (STC comes to mind)?
4. If such a project were undertaken, what would be the flies in the
ointment?
5. Do you think there's enough industry-wide benefit to justify the
investment of time by a group of volunteers?
6. Would you volunteer your time?
7. Would you adopt it at your place of business?

Tim Trese
Documentation Specialist
SAIC-SEALS
321-779-7914


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