Need a style guide? Don’t create, adopt!

IMG_4081.JPGI was talking with another technical communicator who is working for a fairly large company. His team has embarked on a project to develop an extensive technical style guide for the organization. Mired in politics and very strong opinions about what is “correct,” they aren’t moving anywhere fast. While animosity builds, teamwork breaks down. This seems like the wrong thing to do.

My question to him was, is your company’s core competency developing style guides?

His answer, no.

So, what’s the value add in developing a style guide when so many of them are already available to us today?

My solution is to adopt an existing style guide, whether from Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, or whatever you can find on the web or bookstores. It’s a lot easy to hire someone based on knowledge of a particular style guide rather than distract us from doing our primary jobs by reinventing the wheel.

With larger companies, the Branding department most-likely has also established a style guide for marketing documents. That, too, can be adopted for usage, at least for design and product naming.

I also recommend The Chicago Manual of Style to complement the chosen technical style guide. I know I’m not alone in making this recommendation.

If exceptions or “your-company-only” situations exist, THEN you can develop a small style guide for those items, only. But as the third style guide, you are adding complexity. Keep it simple and you’re more likely to succeed.




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