Matthew Arnold Stern -- Writer and Speaker Buy Offline today! Click here
Skip to the article

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 the Chicago 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 rules.

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.

Related Topics

Technical Writing Tips


Creative Writing Tips

Communication Tips

Links Chicago Manual of Style

Society of Technical Communication (STC)

Orange County STC

Sharon Burton-Hardin
Add to My Yahoo!
Matthew Arnold Stern
bio | articles
Subscribe to the Matthew Arnold Stern Newsletter

Powered by AuthorsDen
Google Entire Internet


Hosted by 1&1