Re: Corporate style guide [was: Re: Punctuating the end of bullet points?]

Subject: Re: Corporate style guide [was: Re: Punctuating the end of bullet points?]
From: Janice Gelb <janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 05 May 2006 07:13:17 +1000

Geoff Hart wrote:

Janice Gelb responded to my comments about not always cleaving to the corporate style guide: <<However, individual writers should *not* just discard corporate style guide solutions as they're writing if they happen to personally disagree with a particular decision. That defeats the purpose of a corporate style guide.>>

Many would argue that "corporate style" is an oxymoron. That aside, I was thinking more from the editor's viewpoint than the writer's viewpoint. It's certainly true that if every writer simply disregards style recommendations they disagree with, this wastes everyone's time because the editor charged with enforcing the style guide will simply have to undo all that work, cursing the author all the while. That's not a good thing for anyone.

Nonetheless, I stick by my guns: no style guide is ever completely comprehensive, and just about any guide (if slavishly followed) can lead to nonsensical choices that provide no service to the reader. The people responsible for compliance with the style guide should have authority to overrule the guide when that's appropriate. This should never be a matter of preference or simple rebellion against authority; it should be a carefully considered decision intended to benefit the user.


The ideal situation is that the editor, who is in charge of enforcing the style guide, should have the authority to sit down with the writer and discuss whether an exception is justified. Occasionally, it will be. That's where I return to my original statement that there's a difference between consistency and foolish consistency: the former supports the reader; the latter supports only the style guide, irrespective of whether doing so supports the reader.

If the recommendations in the style guide are not
useful, that should be discussed. If a writer has
an editor and they mutually agree that in a very
specific case the recommendation does not work,
then perhaps they can agree to not follow the style
guide but that feedback should also go back to the
people who maintain the style guide to be incorporated
into future versions. Our style guide certainly has
explanatory text related to guidelines as to how they
should be used in specific cases where appropriate.

The purpose of a style guide is to provide guidelines
for the writer that are useful and appropriate. If
the style guide is not doing so, then it should be
re-examined. However, due to the nature of consensual
corporate style guides, everyone using a style guide is
never going to agree with every single decision. And
it's easy for writers to substitute their own aesthetic
judgment for the readers ("I don't like this guideline
so therefore my readers won't and I'm not going to
follow it").

I also am sticking to my guns: the purpose of a
corporate style guide is to ensure consistency
*for the reader* not just for some foolish
straitjacket. Writers deciding on their own that
they disagree with a guideline and proceeding
as they like defeats the purpose of providing a
common company documentation experience for the reader.

-- Janice

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punctuating the end of bullet points: From: T K
Punctuating the end of bullet points?: From: Geoff Hart
Re: Punctuating the end of bullet points?: From: Janice Gelb
Corporate style guide [was: Re: Punctuating the end of bullet points?]: From: Peter Neilson
Corporate style guide [was: Re: Punctuating the end of bullet points?]: From: Geoff Hart

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