Book Review: Microsoft Manual of Style, 4th Edition; Microsoft Corporation

Microsoft Manual of Style, 4th EditionAs a technical writer, the Microsoft Manual of Style is the first style guide I reach for when I am a working on documentation project when the organization doesn’t have a corporate style guide. Now, Microsoft has published the Microsoft Manual of Style, 4th Edition that includes some timely updates documenting how Microsoft’s editorial style is adapting and changing to meet new technologies.

The Microsoft Manual of Style is a soup to nuts guide to the Microsoft style for writing technical documentation. I like its holistic approach that includes principles of Microsoft Style, web content, international audience considerations, writing about user interface guidelines, and writing procedures.  It rounds out with a well-documented usage dictionary. The Microsoft writers and editors behind this edition have put together a solid style guide that can serve both experienced and novice writers alike even just to help resolve stylistic arguments during the writing and editing of documents. Some notable updates in this edition include how Microsoft handles writing about mobile phones, gestures, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and for international audiences.

Chapter 2 Content for the web could really benefit from some screen shot examples from Microsoft web properties to show examples. It also is light on Community-based content coverage.  Sparing my feelings as a technical writer, I realize community provided content is playing a role in documentation and support. Unfortunately, I’ve had my issues with community provided content as a user seeking support online for technical issues. The body of practical knowledge on managing community provided content seems scant in my opinion and I was hoping to see some substantive guidance on editing and managing such content in this edition of the style guide.

The change in tone in this edition of the style guide is  quite refreshing. While it is easy to nerd it up on what is right or wrong when it comes to writing style, this edition breaks down many stylistic decisions as Microsoft style versus Not Microsoft Style.

This latest edition also has a fresh new design, which is cool to see since the design of the last couple of editions seems to bleed together in my memory. There is more white space and a new font from previous editions, which makes adds a lot to the style guide.

I recommend the Microsoft Manual of Style because this edition has some nice and timely updates. Previous editions of the Microsoft Manual of Style have also served me well and the guide is helpful to writers and non-writers alike tasked to write technical documents. The guiding principles set out in this edition of the style guide can help writers of all experience levels.

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