Technical Writer Style Guide Examples
Have you ever wondered what technical writer style guides are? Technical writers need to adhere to a set of specific rules when it comes to writing their content.
These style guidelines are known as technical writer style guides. They ensure that your customers can read your content quickly and dependably. Below, let's discuss the different types of technical writer style guides and examples from other companies in the industry.
What is a Technical Writer Style Guide?
A technical writer style guide is a set of guidelines that technical writers must follow when writing their technical documents.
These style guides provide rules on how long sentences should be, what words to use or avoid, and how to use charts and figures in the content material.
A technical writer style guide informs first-time writers, such as technical writer interns or professionals, about the standards to follow when writing technical documents.
Technical writers can follow a few technical writer style guides depending on the content they are creating or the technical publications for which they're writing.
What Should A Style Guide for Technical Writers Include?
A technical writer style guide should include the technical writing standards for your company.
It should also provide examples and references for each rule so the writers can easily find what they're seeking. Another important thing is it's best if the content style guide has enough flexibility to allow some variation in formatting when necessary.
Technical Writing Style Guide Examples
To keep your documents more precise and more consistent, it's best to follow a style guide. Here are some examples to use:
Chicago Manual Of Style
The Chicago Manual of Style is a guide that focuses primarily on grammar and writing style. It guides punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, hyphens/dashes, plurals, and possessiveness.
Technical writers can use this style while writing software documentation or technical information for the web.
The A-List Apart content style guide suits technical writers who write web content. It focuses on designing and developing web content according to web standards.
The technical writing guide is ideal for writing in a conversational and informal tone, although not at the cost of accuracy or clarity.
Techprose for Writing Technical Documentation
Techprose is a style guide written for technical communicators. It covers a variety of topics ranging from grammar to presentation.
Many full-time or freelance technical writing guides aim for different industries or disciplines; Techprose is no exception.
An Appendix section has examples of how the rules work in practice, as well as answers to frequently asked questions like "How do I write about software?"
Other pages include "Word Usage Definitions," "Numbers & Math Symbols Guide," "Foreign Language Translations Guide," and "Punctuation Rules."
Microsoft Manual Of Style
The first chapter of the Microsoft Manual of Style is a style manual covering punctuation, capitalization, and italics. It also offers guidelines on handling headings and technical formatting terms for clarity.
The Microsoft writing style guide also contains advice on spelling in different contexts (such as medical terminology). Moreover, there are rules about words with more than one meaning or pronunciation.
Grammar usage sections such as restrictive versus non-restrictive clauses and contractions like "it isn't" vs. "it is not" appear as well.
IBM Style Guide
The IBM style guide is a style guide for technical editing.
The first chapter covers common usage questions and grammar rules, such as how to spell "effectively" or the difference between "affect" and "impact."
Also, sections on words that shouldn't be used (such as "utilize") or words that mean different things with context appear.
There is also advice on punctuation for editorial style, like when to put an apostrophe after contractions ("don't").
Oxford Manual of Style
The Oxford Manual of Style is a style guide that covers academic publishing. It also contains advice on general writing, such as how to correctly use words like "would" or the difference between using "fewer" and "less."
The Manual includes chapters for different types of documents: books, journal articles, essays (books), book reviews, letters, speeches. There are even sections about recipes in books and computer code in technical publications.
Handbook of Technical Writing
Whether you're writing technical documentation for emails or formal reports, the Handbook of Technical Writing offers advice and guidelines for writing in various technical contexts.
The Handbook includes chapters that cover professional communication, organization, and style, document design (including tables), graphics, math notation, punctuation usage like when to put an apostrophe after contractions ("don't").
It also discusses how to write technical documentation for other geographic regions.
A11Y Style Guide
The A11Y style guide is for designers, developers, and writers to ensure that content is accessible, focusing on visually impaired people.
The style guide focuses primarily on alt text descriptions of images used in web pages with guidelines about their size and shape.
It also includes information about how to make it easy for screen readers to navigate through pages by using proper titles, headings, and links and the use of language like acronyms or abbreviations (one's vs. one).
Open Suse is an open-source style guide for developers and designers creating software documentation.
This technical writer's style guide provides help for grammar, formatting, punctuation, capitalization rules, and hyphenation guidelines.
It also specifies the preferred fonts: Liberation Sans Narrow with Arial or Times New Roman as backup font choices. Moreover, the guide has a DocBook markup at the end to help you select the right XML element and make your document easy to translate from English.
Apple Style Guide
The Apple style guide is for everyone involved in technical communication, including writers, editors, and proofreaders. Apple developers use it to write customer-facing content.
Here are some of the more specific guidelines from this particular stylebook:
- No underlining or overstrikes
- Use italics instead (e.g., "typeface")
- Text that needs emphasis should contain asterisks (*emphasis*)
- No ALL CAPS EVER!
- Never end a sentence with a preposition.
18F Content Guide
The 18F Content Guide is an open-source style guide, meaning that it's available for anyone to read and contribute.
18F is the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) internal team building digital components of federal agency websites, intranets, and other online content on behalf of the entire U.S. government.
The A.P. or Associated Press Stylebook is a style guide published by The Associated Press for journalists and editors.
The A.P. Stylebook is the primary reference book in most U.S. newspapers, magazines, T.V. newsrooms, major publishing houses of books, and other print publications outside North America.
How to Write a Style Guide for Technical Writers
You can use one of the options mentioned above as your reference guide to create content templates for yourself. Here are the steps for writing a style guide:
- For reference, start with your preferred writing templates, such as the A.P. Style Guide.
- Create rules for point of view, passive voice, and tenses.
- Translate jargon to language easily understood by the readers.
- Specify practices for various formats.
- Define how the branded terminology shall be formatted and spelled.
- Establish performance standards.
- Set rules about the table of contents and FAQ.
- Define formatting and photo guidelines.
- Specify rules for visual design elements.
Focus on accessibility and user-friendly English usage when creating your guide. You can use the same guidelines to write content for social media, web, or print publishing.
Remember to include examples, definitions, and explanations of the terminology you use in your guide to clarifying what you mean when referring to something in particular.
In conclusion, technical writer style guides are the necessary starting point for any technical writer. Although not as extensive as tutorials, these guides are the blueprint for writers to follow when creating computer technology, HTML, or other technical aspects.
As discussed, you can either use one of the examples discussed in this article or create your own developer documentation style guide.
Josh is the founder of Technical Writer HQ and Squibler, a writing software. He is considered one of the top product influencers in the world by Product School and one of the top technical writers. He has been writing software tutorials, manuals, handbooks, and white papers for over eight years. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.