Re: Style Guide or Style Edict?

Subject: Re: Style Guide or Style Edict?
From: Jane Bergen <janeb -at- ANSWERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1997 13:59:10 +0000

On 16 Jan 97 at 12:30, Lisa Higgins wrote:

> Rikki Nyman wrote:
> > How are style guides used at your company? Ours falls under the
> > draconian "you must do it this way" approach -- the result is a
> > fair number of writers and editors who deliberately (and
> > defiantly) do what ever they think is appropriate. Do you use a
> > guide as a basic direction or is it cast in stone?
> Well, I am currently doing whatever I want, but it's OK because
> nobody here has done what I'm doing before. (Which is part of my
> point--a stricter set of rules might require me to spooge my
> material into a completely inappropriate format.)

I'm the only writer in my company and basically no one cares what I
do. That's not as good as it sounds. For the last three years I've
been developing my own style guide just for my own sanity. In
addition to trying to come up with a good-looking appearance for my
documents, I've been trying to standardize things to make it easier
on myself. It's finally beginning to work. I think that's the key to
style guides...they should be a tool, not a rule.

> Different people are comfortable with different levels of direction
> as far as style guides go. I like a style guide that lets me use
> some degree of judgement over how I present different types of
> information. Some people don't want to bother with that, and just

It also has a lot to do with the corporate culture where you work or
for whom you work. Larger companies, unlike mine, might put a lot of
time, money, and effort into readability and usability studies in
order to determine the best "look and feel" for their product....and
they consider the documentation to be as important as the interface.
These companies don't want, and can't afford, mavericks who think
that they have to redesign the docs for every product release.

Style guides are invaluable if used correctly. They can help new
employees get "up-and-running" very quickly. On the other hand, when
imposed from the top without carefully considering all the
ramifications, they can be more of a hindrance than anything.

Jane Bergen

"my opinions are my own..."
Jane Bergen, Technical Writer
janeb -at- answersoft -dot- com
AnswerSoft, Inc.

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