Technical Writing Tip:
Develop a style guide
You might think that style guides are useful only for large documentation departments.
But, even if you are a consultant or a sole technical writer, you will still benefit from
creating your own style guide. You need a style guide to provide consistency in your
grammar, terminology, and format. It will save you from fishing through old manuals
asking, "What did I do last time?"
You can use one or more of the published style guides as a starting point, such as
Manual of Style and Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications.
However, you will run into style issues for your own company that don't fit into any of
the off-the-shelf style guides. This is why you still need to document your own style
Your style guide should include:
- Proper usage of company- or industry-specific terminology.
- Document formats (both hardcopy and online).
- Rules for graphics.
- Grammar and word-use rules when the other style guides disagree (and they do), or when
your requirements are different from standards. (For example, if you use British
spelling instead of American spelling.)
You will need to revise your style guide as you encounter new style issues or as your
needs change. You might consider putting it online for easy access and updating.
Creative Writing Tips
Manual of Style
Society of Technical Communication (STC)
Orange County STC