Re: Style Guides?

Subject: Re: Style Guides?
From: Don M Chaffee <dchaffee -at- WORLD -dot- STD -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 23 Jan 1994 06:25:39 GMT

David A Lowe <29215 -at- ef -dot- gc -dot- maricopa -dot- edu> writes:

>Hi all,
> I just got hired for my first job as a tech writer. My first
>projects are an on-line user manual and a policies and procedures
>manual. Does anyone recommend any books or style guides? I am
>going to an information mapping seminar a couple of weeks after
>I start the job.
> Thanks in advance!
>- David

Only two worth mentioning I've ever seen for docos:

Chicago manual of style, U. Chicago Press. Everyone's standard.
Apple Style Guide. They're the only computer company I've run across that
has even bothered towrite a style guide. If Microsoft has one, their
writers sure don't know about it.

Info mapping is largely horsefeathers, so be critical. Common sense in
high fashion.

Learn to index properly. Don't rely on the so-called indexing tools in
word processors and page layout software.

Write in the present tense, active voice, indicative mood.
"The system displays a dialog box"
"a dialog box appears"
Stuff like that.

Get a copy of Strunk and White. Read their Rules No. 1 and 2. Read them
again. Emblazon them on your cubicle at work. Defy all nay-sayers.

Except for terms of art and other recent vocabulary additions, bust your
butt to get a copy of Webster's Second Unabridged. It's The Big Dic. The
Third is heresy. Other dictionary publishers don't make it. Well, OK, the
OED is real useful, but not for modern American-English.

Go back and redo the index. You didn't get it right the first time.
Indexing properly is PAINFUL unless you're really weird. I did it for
eight years, so I speak from experience.

Learn everything you can about typography and layout. And illustrating.
Skills in these areas will make you stand out.

At the end of the workday, when you're tired and hungry, grab some Fritos
and a Coke and sit down at your PC and write until you can't stay awake
any more. Write letters to Aunt Jane; letters to the editor of your local
newspaper; diary entries; queries to the 'net.

God bless and good luck. Any time you're in the mood for pedantry, drop
me a line.


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