7 Examples of Technical Writing Style Guides
A strong technical writing style is informative, clear, and concise. It guides the reader through a complex topic so they understand or know how to use a product or service.
On a related note, a technical writing style guide helps you write in a particular style, no matter your industry or technical area of expertise. It provides a set of standards or writing rules/recommendations for tone, grammar, and structure of a technical document. Consider it your point of reference for writing consistently.
Not all style guides are created equal, though. Certain guides are more appropriate for developers, while others are more useful for report writers. Here are seven technical writing style manuals to help you determine the best option for you.
1. AP Stylebook
Best for: Any technical writer
The Associated Press Stylebook is an English style and usage guide for proper language and published for journalists and editors. The style manual is an excellent tool to guide your technical writing's punctuation, abbreviation, numerals, spelling, etc. You can purchase a hard copy (hundreds of pages long) and use the table of contents to answer your questions or get the stylebook online (it's searchable and customizable).
Become a stronger writer in our online technical writing course
Our Technical Writing Foundations course includes instructor feedback on your actual technical writing.View Course & Outline
2. Google Developer Style Guide
Best for: Developers/Software writers
This technical writing style guide offers "editorial guidelines for writing clear and consistent Google-related developer documentation." If you have specific questions such as ones related to "Voice and Tone" or how to use a bulleted list, you can search for the answer directly within the style guide's online format - no need to read in linear order.
3. Chicago Manual of Style
Best for: Any technical writer
Similar to the AP Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style guides you through style, usage, and grammar within your technical writing. Published in 1906, it's one of the most widely used style guides in the U.S. What's the difference from the AP Stylebook? The Chicago style is more detailed for writing manuscripts and articles.
4. The IET Guide to Technical Report Writing
Best for: Technical report writer
If you write technical reports, consider the IET Guide to Technical Report Writing your go-to for the most commonly accepted tech report format. It's concise and focuses on keeping your reader's needs at the forefront of your writing. You can first read the 10 laws of good report writing in the guide including:
- produce the report for your reader(s).
- keep the report as short as possible.
- organize information for the convenience of the reader.
It then goes into elements such as report format, diagrams, etc.
5. Apple Style Guide
Best for: Software developers/Apple writers
Software developers consider the Apple Style Guide to be the must-have guide. However, it's also helpful for writing other types of technical documentation such as copy for a training program or an instruction manual. This guide includes a section that helps you write for non-native English readers.
6. Microsoft Writing Style Guide
Best for: Computer technology writer
- Write short, simple sentences.
- Replace complex sentences and paragraphs.
- Include that and who. ·
- Use an active voice and indicative mood most of the time.
According to the guide, Microsoft's approach to voice and style is warm and relaxed, crisp and clear, and ready to lend a hand. It helps you write in an active voice rather than passive which is more engaging for the reader.
7. A List Apart
Best for: Website developers
A more informal style guide with an informal tone, A List Apart is concise, but comprehensive. It's an excellent resource that discusses image use, writing snappy introductions, achieving clarity, and more. A List Apart is primarily designed to help writers create articles for the site, but it's helpful for any technical writer. For grammar rules and formatting, the guide refers to the Chicago Manual of Style.
Get one-on-one coaching and get feedback on your actual writing.
Our Technical Report Writing Course is available for individuals and groups.Download the Course Outline
Choose a technical writing style guide
Write with consistency by choosing a technical writing style manual. Another option is to create your own based on these examples. This is also an excellent strategy if you write collaboratively as it ensures all technical documentation has a similar style.
Want to take your tech writing skills and technical communication skills to the next level? Take an online writing course. At Instructional Solutions, we help you learn how to write a wide range of effective technical content — from user manuals to technical reports. You'll learn effective writing rules, how to use plain language, write scannable content, and improve your technical form of communication.