Re: Can style trump grammar rules?

Subject: Re: Can style trump grammar rules?
From: Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2014 10:55:25 -0700

On 7/31/2014 9:09 AM, Laura Lemay wrote:

...
When I was a young tech writer I really liked the look of the Avant Garde font. I set three entire books, 1500 pages worth, entirely in Avant Garde. My belief that Avant Garde was an awesome font did not make this a good idea.

I remember some of the odd things I did when I began technical writing many years ago. Most of my "creative" work was reserved for presentations and marcom-related documents. I fell in love with WordArt when I first saw it, I looked for unusual fonts, and I did things with shadows and borders. I cringe at the thought of being so creative now because that sort of design is too gimmicky.

... Marcomm-related content is usually more "designed," and there is much more flexibility in terms of unique ("hipster") design in marcomm. In technical writing our purpose is to solve our customer's problems.

There is also the relationship with the audience to consider. In marcom, the audience is generally chosen by the marketer of the product and the content is written to change the reader's position. In tech comm, the audience chooses the product and the content is written to inform the reader. So marcom is product-centric while tech comm is reader-centric.

Yes, it is stodgy and boring. I think most tech writers have to go through a phase where we think our work is stodgy and boring, and some of us do dumb things like set 1500 page books in Avant Garde. Eventually we figure out that stodgy and boring is exactly the right thing, and if we still feel artistically unfilled we take up a hobby.

It is only stodgy and boring when the design is more meaningful than the content. The design in technical writing should be to make the content as clear as possible so that product information gets into a person's head without a bunch of mental confetti to get in the way. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, text stylization, and design all play a part and nothing in documentation should get in the way of conveying content. When you want a steak, you just want your steak, and you don't want to dig through a pretty salad to get it. I don't care for either steak or salad, I like pizza but I don't want my technical documents to look like design pizza.

All that said your original question was about titles on chapter splash pages. Splash pages are a design element in books that are ignored by most readers, which is one of the reasons they went out of style 15+ years ago. Do whatever you want on your splash page; upper case, lower case, mixed case, drop shadows, emoji, whatever. Pick a style and use it consistently.

Were they called splash pages 15 years ago? I've seen introductory pages in book chapters but I didn't know what to call them. I do like it when books have a quick-reference outline before each chapter. Is that out of style or replaced by something else?

Lauren


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References:
Re: Can style trump grammar rules?: From: Kyle Simmons
Re: Can style trump grammar rules?: From: Gene Kim-Eng
RE: Can style trump grammar rules?: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Can style trump grammar rules?: From: Julie Stickler
Re: Can style trump grammar rules?: From: Shawn
Re: Can style trump grammar rules?: From: Laura Lemay

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