RE: Style Guide for UNIX?

Subject: RE: Style Guide for UNIX?
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: "Julie Stickler" <jstickler -at- gmail -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 17 Oct 2008 10:15:43 -0600

Julie Stickler wrote:

> I've just started a new job and I'll be documenting software that runs
> on UNIX as well as Windows platforms. It's been a long time since I
> did any UNIX back in school, so I've got to get up to speed. I'm
> reading through the Installation guide and I'm noticing a lot of steps
> that start with what I recognize as UNIX commands (cd, untar) so the
> step starts with a lower case letter. This looks odd to me, and I'm
> not sure if this is acceptable when documenting UNIX?
> What say the experts on the list? Is lower case OK, or should I
> rewrite to avoid it? For example, should I edit "cd to the root
> directory." to read "Change directory to the root directory."?

Engineers use UNIX/Linux commands as verbs all the time, but I think
it's a bad idea for tech pubs. Our style is that the procedure step
tells the reader in English what to do. It may tell the reader what
command to use (commands are in fixed-width font). Or it may be followed
by the command line input used to do it (often captured from a terminal
session, always in fixed-width font). For instance:

3 Run the df -k command to look for a file system that has enough room
and ideally is not on the same disk as dbspace1.

6 Change to the root directory and create an archive file of the entire
<rv_version> directory:

cd /
tar cvf /dev/rmt/0 ./var/tmp/<rv_version> ./rahome ./var/tmp/archive

Personally, I prefer a more minimalist approach than we use. I just
don't think it's appropriate or necessary, in manuals for system and
network administrators, to spell out keystroke by keystroke how to move
a file to a different directory. Just tell them _where_ to put it --
they already know _how_.

But I've lost that argument. :-}


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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Style Guide for UNIX?: From: Julie Stickler

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