Re: Style Manuals

Subject: Re: Style Manuals
From: Lynette Petendree <Lynette_Petendree -at- INSTINET -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 3 Feb 1999 10:30:07 -0500

>I'm no more a disciple of MS as I am for any other company.

Glad to hear it. I am only addressing (irritating) those who are.

>However, many companies have their own guidelines when creating
>documentation for their product. It is not unusual and almost expected.
>When you start a job or contract at a new company, don't you ask if they
>have a guide and if they say no, don't you feel it odd? If you work at a
>company writing documentation for their product, you use their styleguide.

Right, when I work for a specific company that has a style guide (many do not as
I have found out while contracting for banks and other businesses where
technical writers, since they do not make money for the bank or brokerage firm
are seen as accessories that fill requirement) I use it. However, I do not work
for Microsoft and do not see why I should use theirs over the one I had from a
previous job.

>MS just happens to have a large range of products and a wide range of
>sources for creating documentation. In fact, because OF this, I can see
>more reason for control over the look, feel, and content of the
>material. I see nothing wrong with that.

They make a few OSs and many office tools, which most of the time have been so
bug ridden, you have to hold onto your hats and wait for Service Pack 55 to come
out before things really function properly.

>I also have the equiv from SUN called "A Style Guide for the Computer
>Industry". It even comes with a complete set of Frame templates on
>diskette. When I write for a UNIX audience, in the absence of a company
>guide, I use that guide, and when I writer for a Windows audience, I use
>the MS guide. I don't see anyone bashing the SUN styles, but then hating
>SUN isn't a religion like hating MS can be.

If everyone was stuffing the SUN guide down writers throats, instead of offering
good, common sense writing advice (we are supposed to be writers before we are
technical writers -- can't have one without the other) I would be complaining
about that too.

>Not "manuals", but only manuals for/about their products.

Then why are people on this list recommending using the Microsoft Manual of
Style for any manual? People who are asking writing questions are NOT writing
about Microsoft Word or Powerpoint, so why are people suggesting the Microsoft
Manual of Style, if, as you say Microsoft only wants to control manuals about
their products? And, once again, I say they should just give away that
documentation and eliminate some of our jobs, since their technical writers are
obviously more in tuned with the way technical writing should be. Maybe if we
lost our livelihoods because Microsoft can do it better, then more people like
you would see the Microsoft monopoly for what it is.

>The "good old days" are just that...old.
>The language of technology is changing so quickly that IMHO, S&W,
>Chicago, and several others are obsolet

I am sure that the first technical writers, many decades ago would argue this
with you. The language of technology may be changing (and how many of us have
seen technical jargon come and go?) but English language and grammar changes
very little and very slowly and the people who read our manuals still read and
speak English, not Microsoftish. The day the Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk
and White (which has been around since 1919 or so) become obsolete is the day
that writers become obsolete.

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