Style Guides for Technical Writers

Which style guide should you use for your technical writing department?

You’re going to scream when I say, “It depends”, but it does. Why? A style guide is exactly that. Its purpose is to provide direction; to serve as a guide.

But, it’s not meant to be a bible. Technical writers shouldn’t slavishly follow every guideline. Language is fluid. Things change. As writers, we need to follow our style guides and encourage others to do likewise. Saying that, there will be exceptions.

So, with that said, most technical writers and tech doc department will benefit from the following style guides. I’ve also included articles on how to write a style guide and examples from other companies.

How to Create a Style Guide

Style Guide for Technical Writers

Handbook of Technical Writing, Tenth Edition – The best style guide I’ve ever come across! Just buy it now. Seriously.

Dept of Defence – Writing Style Guide and Preferred Usage – Write DoD issuances clearly and concisely, applying the following general principles of effective writing.

Style Guide for the Atlassian Developer Documentation – This page contains important information for anyone updating the Atlassian Developer documentation. It is intended for Atlassians and external contributors.

Apple – Style Guide PDF – The Apple Style Guide provides editorial guidelines for text in Apple instructional materials, technical documentation, reference information, training programs, and the software user interface. (This guide was formerly the Apple Publications Style Guide. The name was changed to reflect the growing amount of material that’s delivered in electronic formats, rather than as traditional print documents.)

Techprose – Technical Guidelines with checklists. Very detailed. PDF

Microsoft Manual of Style (4th Edition) – Probably the most commonly used reference guide for technical writers. Here’s the blurb: “Direct from the Editorial Style Board at Microsoft—you get a comprehensive glossary of both general technology terms and those specific to Microsoft; clear, concise usage and style guidelines with helpful examples and alternatives; guidance on grammar, tone, and voice; and best practices for writing content for the web, optimizing for accessibility, and communicating to a worldwide audience.”

SAE International Technical Paper Style Guide – The purpose of this Style Guide is to facilitate the development of high quality SAE technical papers. In general, the guidelines presented here follow the advice of the Chicago Manual of Style, and in the case of missing or unclear guidelines, defer to that manual.