Re: Style Guides for Tech Docs

Subject: Re: Style Guides for Tech Docs
From: Susan W. Gallagher <sgallagher5 -at- cox -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 2004 14:52:01 -0500

Well, pretty much the standard answer -- "It depends" --
applies here. <g>

In theory, a style guide will cover all of a company's
documentation, not just a single project. As a contractor,
most of the projects I did were "one off" for very small
companies and I was the lone writer, so I didn't much worry
about a style guide -- it wasn't in the scope of the contract
and I didn't have anyone I needed to "match" in writing style
or formatting.

Really, too, if you're a lone writer for a company, a style
guide may be surperfluous as you can usually maintain
consistency between documents when you're the only one
writing them.

Where a style guide really becomes important is when you have
multiple writers working on either multiple projects or
different parts of the same project. You want the docs to
be consistent across product lines and to sound like one
person wrote them all, so you need to create and enforce

The commercially available style guide(s) that you use
depend on your target audience and the type of documentation
you create. One approach is to pick a biggie -- like the
Chicago Manual of Style -- to form the foundation of your
stylistic guidelines and to pick an industry specific
suppliment like MS MOS or Sun's "Read Me First". Once these
documents are in place, you look at your product- or company-
specific needs and write an addendum, where you specify things
like whether to capitalize "Web" or hyphenate "e-mail" and
how to format the product name.

If you want people to follow your style guidelines, it helps
if you have buy-in. Allow those who need to follow the guide
to have input into it and hold it up for review periodically
to make sure it still fits your needs.

Procedures??? That's a-whole-nuther can of worms. <g>

-Sue Gallagher

> From: "A.H." <isaac840 -at- yahoo -dot- com>
> When you take on a project, Do you create your own
> style guides and procedures or are they already
> established? There are a few online style guides to
> choose from: The Columbia Guide to Online Style; The
> Web Content Style Guide: An Essential Reference for
> Online Writers, Editors and Managers; Microsoft Manual
> of Style for Technical Publications. Does anyone use
> any of these? Others?



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