Style Guides and Style Manuals

Subject: Style Guides and Style Manuals
From: "Anu Biswas" <anu -dot- biswas -at- macro-soft -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2005 12:28:33 +0400

Hi all

Am back on the list after a long break and it seems a bit intimidating
to firstly get a grip on the action in the tech writing community and
second, to post mails without sounding completely rusty. Yet I am
determined to start again!

In the last digest I received, Kirk Turner wrote -

I am in the process of editing a very long and
complex manual. Does this sound right?
I hate to question the venerable Chicago
Manual of Style, but this looks odd. Is there a more authoritative
for technical manuals? Have I interpreted the Chicago heading
hierarchy correctly? Maybe it is just fear of failure clouding my
Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Creating style guides is usually a mix of borrowed guidelines, styles
unique to your company, plus a chunk from users (sometimes). Recently I
created a template for a big Middle Eastern airline and found that a
couple of meetings with their corporate communication team was well
worth it and pretty mandatory. The company had strict guidelines on
fonts, colors, and images. While this may not always be the case, it is
prudent to get inputs from external communication teams. A sample of the
final product for all sections, reviewed by technical, business,
functional teams can help refine and fine tune the document/style guide.
Though the writing team eventually owns the style guide, I found that
what seemed perfectly logical, and aesthetic to me received some
excellent feedback when I circulated it to relevant groups.

Again, online manuals have so many useful features to explore that
heading hierarchy problems can be solved in many ways. Popups, secondary
windows, See also etc etc. Classifying information as Procedural,
Conceptual, and Reference may help identify where and how it can be
displayed and consequently eliminate/reduce the old approach of
differentiating information chunks via headings.

While browsing, I found an interesting site: with links to APA style
guides, general style manuals and lots more.

Anu Biswas

PS: Is there a difference between a style guide and a style manual? Or
is it irrelevant?


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