MSTP is the ‘bible’ for those in technical writing. After a long wait since 2004, Microsoft finally released the 4th edition of the Microsoft Manual of Style (MSTP). The style guide was released on January 15, 2012.
The guide is accepted and implemented globally for most technical publication. The guide provides guidelines on writing regular content as well as technical content. While content writers in Mumbai may have never heard of the MSTP, technical writers in Mumbai would swear by the book. Also, as more technical writing companies in India evolve, MSTP is gaining more limelight.
This 438 page detailed book, sets a technical writer apart from a regular writer. Let’s learn more about the magical book that helps create error free technical content.
Creating a technical document is definitely something different than your usual content writing work. Technical writing requires the writer to follow a standard set of guidelines which may be the result of an established consensus or something simply authorised by the company requesting for the content. Technical writing does not need an individual writer to follow his/her own writing style, and this is where the MSTP helps to standardize the writing style.
Making use of the MSTP
The MSTP is not found commonly in India; however, abroad it is something you can get your hands on easily at major outlets. In addition, the MSTP even be downloaded easily across the world from online sites in the form of an eBook. You can make use of this style guide while creating a technical document, be it for general use or for a particular organization.
What makes MSTP so good is its comprehensive take of every element within technical writing for a product or service. This includes separate section for important topics such as:
- Style and voice: Helps you define a standardized tone for a technical document to be maintained throughout.
- Content for the web: Provides guidelines to prepare any content for the Web. You can make use of MSTP to churn out an effective message for the target audience.
- Content for a worldwide audience: Guides you prepare content that can please people across the globe. To be accessible to a worldwide audience requires you to create content that can deliver the intended meaning. This especially applies to a content being translated into a different language.
- Accessible content: Provides information on the terminology that is generally accepted. When dealing with areas, such as designs and graphics, MSTP helps to ensure that the basic meaning still remains accessible to the audience.
- The user interface: Emphasises on the writing style and formatting to follow while referring to user interface elements. With more advanced technologies, new products pose challenges in defining terms which never existed before. MSTP provides a general rule is while dealing with the user interface technology, such as touch screen and gesture control.
- Procedures and technical content: Guides you on the standards to be followed and terminology to be used while writing procedures.
- Practical issues of style: Explains the common errors a writer makes, such as capitalization, usage of list and numbers, etc. Writers often use individual discretion when it comes to simple elements of writing, such as displaying dates or measurements, and writing headings. A standard format is thus suggested in the MSTP.
- Grammar, punctuation, indexes and keywords: Provides clarity on the usage of simple grammar, punctuation and usage of keywords, such as the Web, Internet, etc. Keeping up with a tone requires a coherent use of verbs and nouns and that’s exactly where MSTP suggested style come in handy. Something as basic as punctuation can result in varied meaning and the style guide prescribes a standard format to prevent just that.
- Acronyms and other abbreviations: Simplifies the usage of acronyms by simply listing them down for you … all in one place.
The manual is simple to use with guidelines laid down with respect to their topics. You can even look for specific topics listed in the glossary.
So one may ask, Why Style Guides? Well, the answer is simple… It helps save time, cost and also provides standardization and professionalism to your writing.