Style Guides and Style Manuals are useful tools for ensuring a standard set of criteria and uniformity is employed by technical writers who create procedural documentation for systems and equipment of all levels of complexity. In the United States, common Style Guides used include: the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, the American Psychological Association (APA) Publication Manual, The Business Style Handbook, and the Modern Language Association (MLA) Handbook, among others.
Developing a comprehensive style guide during the planning stages of a program contributes to successful fielding of that asset. Let’s take for example a military vessel’s Technical Documentation. When developing Technical Manuals or Maintenance Requirement Cards (MRCs) for a ship that has not been built, the developer, along with others on the team, have to follow defined regulations and instructions to satisfy the Government’s program requirements. Those requirements can be broad in scope and include, but are not limited to, formatting, style, standards, language, and/or specific technical directives. Implementing and following requirements results in the production of stylistically similar information that a ship’s crew and maintainers can effectively interpret in performance of their duties.
There are numerous reasons and benefits of using and implementing a Style Guide:
Most typically, the Government and contractor coordinate to develop a program style guide or the program requirements will reference a standard style guide to use or modify to be program-specific. If use of a style guide is not a program requirement, it is still strongly recommended that one be created and followed, especially if multiple authors will be involved in developing the technical data and if the development time is lengthy. The complexity and content of a style guide should be program dependent, and using one will result in easily teachable and easily interpretable materials for end users.
Article Authored by José Cavazos, DML