Style Guide or Style Edict?

Subject: Style Guide or Style Edict?
From: Janice Gelb <janiceg -at- MARVIN -dot- ENG -dot- SUN -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 17 Jan 1997 09:37:50 -0800

Rikki Nyman writes:
> 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?

I think style guides need to be followed strictly -- they're the
best chance to achieve consistency in a company's documentation.

You have to make sure, though, that you aren't imposing consistency
simply for consistency's sake. For example, it's one thing to make sure
everyone in your company is, say, writing "database" as one word. It's
another thing to require that all cross-references always begin with
"refer to" instead of "see." If the style guide provides reasonable
guidelines that aren't too low level, I think you have a better chance
of those guidelines being followed.

Another key point is to get the people who are going to be using
the style guide involved in its creation. If people have a voice
in the decisions that are made, they are more likely to abide by
them. Also, the people producing the style guide may need to
revisit a decision if there is widespread disagreement with it.

Ultimately, though, writers need to understand that users view the
documentation as coming from the company, not from the particular
writer. They need to abide by the company's style so that the
documentation appears to come from a single source, even if they
personally disagree with some of the decisions. When they write their
own novel with their own name on the cover, *then* they get to make
their own style decisions :->

-- Janice

Janice Gelb | The only connection Sun has with this
janiceg -at- marvin -dot- eng -dot- sun -dot- com | message is the return address.

"These are my opinions. If they were the Biblical truth, your bushes
would be burning"
-- Nancy Lebowitz's calligraphic button collection


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