Summary: Style Guide

Subject: Summary: Style Guide
From: Heidi Martin <hmartin -at- MICRON -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 18 May 1998 10:17:15 -0600

Thank you to everyone who responded to my questions about in-house style
guides and style guide references. Here is a compilation of the
responses I received.

1) If your company has a style guide, do people use it (i.e., follow
the guidelines contained in it)?

"As tech communicator for a state agency for 8 years, I created a style
guide with the help of a committee. The Director supported me, and all
communications had to observe the published style guidelines. Since I
left a
year ago, it looks like no one's watching the store, and there's some
stylistic chaos."

"The Microsoft style guide is used widely throughout the organization. I
think it is well known inside Microsoft, and it is also published
by Microsoft Press. Updates are published through UE aliases, forums,
Web pages.
I'd guess our style guide is followed 90% of the time. In the other 10%,
house style may not work for a certain product or publication (either
or online), so individual teams make a decision to go against house

"I work for an agency that handles contract writers for Hewlett-Packard
in Northern California. H-P has a great style guide and people are
expected to use it. I often do editing for my peers, and I cite the
style guide when making comments about grammar and puncutation."

"The Tech Comm people do; others in the company probably don't."

"We have a documentation style guide, but no kind
of style guide at the Corporate level. Actually I'm working on getting
some standards for simple things like memos, faxes, use of company logo,

"Our documentation department follows the style guide very closely."

2) How do you make it known within the company that a style guide is
available, and, more importantly, how do you get them to use it?

"As a senior editor for Microsoft, I've used the corporate style guide,
modified a bit by our project-specific guidelines. If a writer or editor
tries to publish books that don't adhere to the corporate guidelines,
exit door is opened very quickly. But at the same time, individuals do
continuously send in their suggestions."

"I was given a copy of the style guide when I started work at H-P, so
every writer has a copy of the style guide and is expected to use it. I
don't know how many actually use it on a daily basis, but I know
whenever I have a question regarding grammar or usage, I consult the
style guide first, and my own grammar and writing books next."

"Ours is up on the company's intranet and when we did the latest
version, we had a big launch and a contest, and put up Astrobright
posters *everywhere* announcing it."

"I feel that in order to get the company-wide styles enforced, you
need the support of upper management. Other than that, I would just
send a memo or e-mail (probably a memo to make it look more official)
letting everyone know that the styles have been approved and are
effective immediately. Again, my company is small (90 employees), so it
probably wouldn't be too hard to get going. Ongoing enforcement is
another issue..."

"We put it on the intranet and tell them that that is the official
company style

3) Are there any style guides you would recommend we look at as we
begin this venture (either good or bad examples)? (FYI, we are in the
electronics industry.)

"As book review editor for STC's journal, I've come across
several interesting guides:
*Microsoft Corporation, _The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical
Publications_, 1998, 1-57231-890-2
*Ritter, R. M., ed., _The Oxford Guide to Style for Writers and
1997, 0198691750 [not technical]
*Hale, Constance, _Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the
Age_, 1996, 1-888869-01-1
*Li, Xia, _Electronic Style: A Guide to Citing Electronic Information_,
1996, 0887369987
*Sun Technical Publications, _Read Me First : A Style Guide for the
Industry_, 1996, 0-13455-347-0
*Schultz, Susan, _Digital Style Guide_. 1993
*_The Chicago Manual of Style_, 14th ed."

"I would recomment H-P's style guide as a good example of a company
guide (especially for someone in the electronics industry). I don't know
how you would find a copy available to the general public. H-P has an
extensive website, and perhaps you could contact someone through that
route? The URL for H-P's website is:";

"I blushingly recommend our third-party style guide (_Read Me
First: A Style Guide for the Computer Industry_), which is
available through many bookstores and You can find
out more about it at
Also, a colleague of mine and I did a presentation on developing
style guides at last year's STC conference (and I will be
presenting a shorter version as part of a progression at this
year's conference). I put up the overheads at";

"I've looked at the Chicago Manual of Style, MS style guide, and
web sites.
The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications includes a
number of rules for what to call various software oriented subjects like
windows, dialog boxes,"buttons," and bars.
I have a lot of archives from my school days (tech writing degree) which
try thess URLs: (web style guide...
there is such a thing??)"

"We reference the Read Me First and the MS Manual of Style."

Thanks, everyone!

Also, special thanks to Carma Allen, who sent me an excellent summary
from the last time Style Guide creation was discussed on the list. That
summary is too long to include here, so if you want to see it, please
email me directly and I'll forward you a copy.

Thanks, all!

Heidi Martin
Tech Comm

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