Posted by: Jack Henry | August 13, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Updated Style Guide and Avoiding (s)

Good morning, folks. In case you missed this announcement on jhaToday there are some important links available to any of you who write for the company. I am copying the message here for you in its entirety:

A new version of the JHA Style Guide for Technical Communication and Training is now available on the resources page of the Editing Services SharePoint. This quarterly update includes new guidelines for font styles, terminology, time of day, and more. Please see the guide’s What’s New page for a full list of updates.

If you have any questions about the guide, contact Cathy Jones (catjones). If you have suggestions for future additions to the guide, we would love to hear them. Submit them via the suggestion page on the Editing Services SharePoint.

And now, back to my daily message, sponsored by…well, nobody actually. Since I’m talking about style guides, I’d like to share a rule that is common amongst the guides we use and the rules we follow. Specifically, the Microsoft Manual of Style says “avoid (s) to indicate both singular and plural.” What does this mean? It means when you are writing and you aren’t sure if you are telling the audience about one thing or more than one thing, don’t waffle! We don’t want wishy-washy language, so commit to the plural. It may be easier to understand if I give you some examples:

INCORRECT. WAFFLING. YUCK. Tom said he would bring the kitten(s) and maybe a (some) bearded dragon(s).

CORRECT. STRONG. YIPPEE.Tom said he would bring the kittens and maybe some bearded dragons.

INCORRECT. WISHY-WASHY. NO WAY. After you install the disk(s), wait for one (or more) minute(s).

CORRECT. COMMITTED. YEAH WAY. After you install the disks, wait for one or more minutes.

The reasons to go this route are many, but here are just a few:

· It takes the reader too long to figure out what you are trying to tell them when they have to make decisions about the amount of something and verb tense every few words (which means frustration).

· The overall message is more important than whether you are bringing one ball or two to the beach. If this is not true and precision is required, then use precision: “This includes one gumball machine, one stand, and 60 gumballs.”

· When you mix singular and plural nouns, jumble verb tenses, and sprinkle text with the letter “s” in parentheses, translators go bonkers.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

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  1. […] to guess what might happen. Be bold. (Really, when did Daisy ever let you down?) For more, see this Editor’s Corner […]

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