Re: Technical Writing Books

Subject: Re: Technical Writing Books
From: Jim Purcell <jimpur -at- MICROSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 15 May 1997 11:01:55 -0700

Floramaria Deter asks:

> I purchased _The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications_
> because of the great reviews the members of this list gave this book.
> I
> have found it very helpful and informative, but I am questioning how
> *accurate* it is. I have been working as a student
> assistant/technical
> writer so I have been instructed on how to write a certain way. For
> example, I have been told to write "click on the button" but according
> to
> the Manual of Style book, the correct way is to write "click the
> button."
> There are many other rules that I've been breaking left and right.
> How accurate is this book? Should I take what the book says with a
> grain
> of salt? Does this book reflect the industry's standard? Or are
> these
> technical writing "rules" one company's opnion?
Style decisions are inherently subjective and so, to a large extent,
matters of opinion. They are rules only insofar as a company's editorial
policy enforces compliance with them. There are no industry standards,
although as with more general writing there is common usage.

In many cases, a style decision is somewhat arbitrary, but for
consistency's sake somebody has to make a decision. At Microsoft, we
"click the button." At your company, you may "click on the button" if
you like. A lot of companies that document Windows applications like to
be consistent with Microsoft usage, but there is no reason to slavishly
follow Microsoft style conventions if you don't work here. It's your
company and your documentation, after all.

Jim Purcell
jimpur -at- microsoft -dot- com
My opinions, not Microsoft's

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