A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Style Guides

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A style guide or style manual is a set of standards for design and writing of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication or organization. Style guides are commonly used by technical communicators in large organizations.



404 File Not Found: Citing Unstable Web Sources   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Researchers, including students, must accommodate to the mutating character of hyperlinks on the World Wide Web. A small study of citations in three volumes of BCQ demonstrates the phenomenon of 'URL rot,' the disappearance of sites cited in the sample articles. Digital technology itself is now being used to create pockets of permanence, but with the understanding that preservation of content is only one ingredient in the mix of media and format migration. Databases like JSTOR offer digitally preserved copies of many scholarly journals. Online journals and search engines may offer their own archives. In general, researchers should cite digital articles in databases where possible and consider avoiding references to online journals with print editions.

Griffin, Frank. Business Communication Quarterly (2003). Articles>Research>Style Guides>Online


A Web Policy is a Policy, Not a Standard

I've noticed recently that people (and organizations) often interchange the policies and standards labels as if there is no difference between them... like those who insist the Web and the Internet are the same. I'm not one for splitting hairs, but in this case, policies are truly not the same as standards and it's important to be clear about the distinction.

Koniezeski, Delia. WelchmanPierpoint (2009). Articles>Web Design>Style Guides>Policies and Procedures


Academic Writing: Reviews of Literature

The format of a review of literature may vary from discipline to discipline and from assignment to assignment. A review may be a self-contained unit -- an end in itself -- or a preface to and rationale for engaging in primary research. A review is a required part of grant and research proposals and often a chapter in theses and dissertations. Generally, the purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles.

University of Wisconsin (2003). Academic>Writing>Style Guides


Appearing for Sentence

Commas, semi-colons and colons are the sentence tidiers. Used correctly, they'll give your written language the 'punctuation' that pauses, voice modulations and gestures provide when you speak.

Right Words (2006). Articles>Writing>Style Guides>Grammar


Apple Publications Style Guide   (PDF)

The Apple Publications Style Guide provides editorial guidelines for text in Apple instructional publications, technical documentation, reference information, training programs, and the software user interface.

Apple Inc. (2006). Resources>Style Guides


Apple Publications Style Guide   (PDF)

The Apple Publications Style Guide provides editorial guidelines for text in Apple instructional publications, technical documentation, reference information, training programs, and the software user interface.

Apple Inc. (2006). Resources>Style Guides


Apple Publications Style Guide (2003)   (PDF)

An updated version of the style guide used by writers and editors in Apple publications groups.

Apple Inc. (2003). Reference>Style Guides>Technical Writing>Technical Writing


Are We Agreed?

'Agreement' refers to elements in a sentence having the same number, gender, case or person. In English, it's probably an issue only for number (that is, singular vs plural) and case (that is, 'I' vs 'me', 'he' vs 'him' and so on).

Right Words. Articles>Writing>Style Guides


Avoiding Insensitive and Offensive Language

Suggestions for avoiding language that reinforces stereotypes or excludes certain groups of people. Includes examples of sentences and words to avoid, and replacements for them. Includes the following topics: Sexism, Race and Ethnicity, Age, Sexual Orientation, Depersonalization of Persons with Disabilities or Illnesses, Patronizing or Demeaning Expressions, and Language That Excludes or Emphasizes Differences.

Nichols, Wendalyn. Random House. Reference>Style Guides>Discrimination>Ethnicity


The BBC News Style Guide   (PDF)

This style guide represents some of John Allen’s extraordinary wisdom surrounding the use of English in written and spoken communications. This is in many ways at the heart of what the BBC does and what it is respected for.This is not a “do and don’t” list but a guide that invites you to explore some of the complexities of modern English usage and to make your own decisions about what does and does not work. It should improve your scripts and general writing, not to mention making you feel better informed, challenged and amused.

BBC (2009). Resources>Style Guides


Beyond Black on White: Document Design and Formatting in the Writing Classroom

Formatting can be a challenge to teach and learn. This chapter provides you with an overview of how the Modern Language Association (MLA) format choices in typography, spacing, and image placement adhere to the standards of basic design. By understanding the theory the MLA rules are based upon, you can help students learn to apply good design principles to any document. Students often don’t understand why they should format their papers according to the design specified by style guides such as the one published by the MLA. Rather than being arbitrary, formatting rules specified by MLA are grounded in good design principles that allow the reader to focus on the meaning of the text rather than the design of the document.

Klein, Michael J. and Kristi L. Shackelford. Writing Spaces (2011). Articles>Document Design>Style Guides>Education


A Brief Introduction to Technical Style

Technical style conveys information about a scientific or engineering topic concisely and clearly. Technical style emphasizes means, actions, and results more than human agents.

conneXions (2008). Articles>Editing>Style Guides>Technical Editing


Building a Better Style Guide   (PDF)

Why are style guides so frequently created, but so rarely successful? All too often, businesses ask for a style guide as a means to create a common look and feel, in the belief that it will solve usability problems and establish consistency between applications – only to be disappointed in the results. Even if such a style guide is followed carefully, the resulting interfaces may not meet usability goals.. This paper explores strategies for creating a style guide that is more than a simplistic rules book. By making the style guide part of the process, it can be used to promote a shared vision, to help the product meet business and usability requirements for consistency and…it may actually be used.

Quesenbery, Whitney. Usability Professionals Association (2001). Articles>Style Guides>Rhetoric>Usability


But the Stylebook Says...

You might think a chapter about how to read a dictionary is a waste of paper, but you'd be wrong. Stylebook entries are designed to be even more explicit in their explanations than dictionary definitions are, but writers and editors still manage to miss the point. When members of the American Copy Editors Society were asked to cite examples of often-misused words, John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun nominated 'stylebook.' The most common form of stylebook abuse is the use of an affirmative entry as a negative entry. Boneheaded editors see x in the stylebook and decide that means they must never, ever use y. A lot of stylebook entries do work this way, but the authors of the stylebook are giving us a little credit and figuring that we can tell which y they're discouraging. One entry, for example, reads 'spaceship.' This doesn't mean all other words in the language are banned; it means simply that AP does not use 'space ship' as two words.

Walsh, Bill. Slot, The (2001). Articles>Style Guides


Capitalization of Headings and Titles

The following summarizes the replies to the question of 'capitalization of headings and titles' in the mailing list tcf-gen in recent months.

TC-FORUM (1999). Articles>Style Guides>TC


Catching Errors in Internet Addresses

Internet addresses have been proliferating in publications, and they're not going to go away. Editors unfamiliar with the Net may see these addresses as incomprehensible blocks of characters that can't be understood or analyzed into components. But learning a little about their structure can help prevent you from publishing erroneous addresses.

Ivey, Keith C. Editorial Eye, The (1997). Reference>Style Guides


Chico State Writing Style Guide

When editors refer to style, they usually do not mean an individual's writing style; they mean editorial style—the guidelines a publisher uses to enhance the reader's understanding. Editorial style includes the consistent use of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and abbreviations, as well as the selection of headings and the use of numbers. These guidelines are often called 'conventions' because they represent a conventional presentation used in publishing.

California State University (2002). Reference>Style Guides>Writing


Choosing the Right Style Guide

Style guides can improve the quality and presentation of documentation. They establish a layer of professionalism that may not have been there before. They also reduce arguments and ‘loose cannons’ within the department, as the style guide becomes the acknowledged reference. There are at least four points to consider when selecting a style guide.

Walsh, Ivan. I Heart Tech Docs (2007). Articles>Editing>Style Guides>Standards


Choosing the Right Style Manual(s)

Editors should consider at least four points in selecting, or reevaluating, primary and secondary manuals.

Mulford, Carolyn. Writing that Works (2003). Articles>Style Guides>Writing


Colour Design and Tools

With cartography on the Web, the use of colour plays an important role in the visualization and analysis of data. The correct application of colour for the display of thematic map data, allows for the better observation of interrelationships and patterns.

Atlas of Canada. Design>Web Design>Style Guides>Color


Common Errors in English

Offers an extensive list of commonly confused words, their definitions and the correct way to use them.

Brians, Paul. Washington State University. Reference>Style Guides>Grammar


Commonly Confused Words

A list of frequently used and sometimes misused words, their definitions and examples of their correct usage.

Author's Guide (2001). Reference>Style Guides


Communicating in Spite of TLAs (Three-Letter Acronyms)   (PDF)

The unchecked use of acronyms and initialisms in technical writing presents a huge obstacle to clarity and readability. Although technical communicators are certainly more aware of this problem than are the engineers, scientists, and managers with whom they work, they need concrete guidelines and at least a small degree of self-righteousness on this subject to help them cope with the onslaught. That acronyms frustrate communication is well-founded in linguistic theory and common sense. Suggestions for mitigating their effect include issues of audience, term selectivity, frequency and occasion of use, and aesthetics.

Miller, Diane F. STC Proceedings (1995). Articles>Writing>Style Guides>Diction


Communicating Style Rules to Editors of International Standards: An Analysis of ISO TC 184/SC4 Style Documents   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Committees within international standards organizations write standards. Prior to approval, these standards must pass through several reviews for technical accuracy and stylistic appropriateness. The style considerations are based on documents published by both the umbrella organization (International Organization for Standarization, or ISO) and the various committees and subcommittees within it. Because authors and editors who use these documents frequently do not have English as a first language, the documents must explain unambiguously just how committees should prepare their documents. This study looks at a sample of those instructional documents using Restricted and Elaborated Code and metadiscourse analysis to determine how easily users can read and understand the material. The findings suggest that the documents do not send a clear message to authors and editors and can be stylistically hard to understand. Consequently, the approved standards themselves are hard to read and interpret.

Warren, Thomas L. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2001). Articles>Editing>Style Guides>Standards


Confusing Words

Confusing Words is a collection of words that are troublesome to readers and writers. Words are grouped according to the way they are most often confused or misused.

Confusing Words. Reference>Style Guides>Diction



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