The style guide is an integral part of a Technical Writer’s toolbox.
A style guide can help make your documentation clear, concise, and consistent. Several levels exist, from the general to the specific. Many writers turn to the Chicago Manual of Style when they have a grammar or citation question. This guide offers general grammatical and clarity standards.
Different disciplines require specific guidelines. Scholars use the Modern Language Association, or MLA, style, while Journalists use the Associated Press (AP) style. Tech Writers turn to the Microsoft Manual of Style or the Apple Style Guide. Searching for “style guides for writing” yields millions of results.
Each industry has its style. The engineering realm goes to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, for its general style and standards, while the medical profession looks to the AMA Manual of Style. The standards for your chosen field is found online and associated with the applicable professional organization.
The business for which you work might also have a house style guide. The house guide is usually the first guide to which many writers turn to when they have a question. Most of my early questions related to how the company wanted their documents to appear and to read. Following house style is essential to make the documentation have a consistent look and feel.
Finally, the Tech Writer can create a style sheet for an individual document. A style sheet is especially important when working with a writing team. Even when conforming to house style, not all writers use the same verbiage in a document. A style sheet is a tool the writer can use to maintain consistency throughout a document set. I used a sheet to remind myself which colors I used for the various conditions, what in-house code names belonged to which products, and so on.
Style sheets can be used in fiction writing, too, but that is a topic for another day.