The Purpose and Value of Style Guides

Subject: The Purpose and Value of Style Guides
From: Joe Schrengohst <jschreng -at- CISCO -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 4 Feb 1999 14:52:24 -0800

Just about the first technical writing assignment I ever had was
"rewriting" THE Style Guide for a major telecommunications
company. I was more than a little perplexed about why the
pubs manager (an otherwise prudent person) would assign me
(the "new kid" in the pubs group) to "rewrite" THE Style Guide.

I really wasn't too thrilled about the assignment. Prior to getting
into technical writing (the "land of milk and honey") I had been
an engineer. "Rewriting" THE Style Guide seemed to me a waste
of my incredible technical skill and ability. Agonizing over whether
"kilobits per second" should be abbreviated as "Kbps" or "kbps"
wasn't exactly what I'd signed on for.

After several more years in this racket I developed a belated
appreciation for the wisdom of that first pubs manager.

The true purpose and value of having the "new kid" rewrite
THE Style Guide is as follows:

1. The "new kid" learns THE Style Guide pretty darn well.

2. He/she just might possibly come up with some "good stuff."

3. The "old hands" are forced to defend "the way things are done."

4. THE Style Guide just gets better and better with every "rewrite."
Joe Schrengohst
Contract Technical Writer
Cisco Systems
Network-to-Users BU
170 West Tasman Drive
San Jose, CA 95134
E-Mail: jschreng -at- cisco -dot- com
Cisco Phone: (408) 527-9844
Cisco Fax: (408) 527-1488
Home Phone: (775) 782-4129
Home Fax: (775) 782-5585

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