Does a special computer message appear in a "dialog box" or a "pop-up window"?
If your announcement states "The product will be released this summer," do you really mean that people in the southern hemisphere can expect it between December and February?
How can you prepare your Web site to maximize accessibility for people with disabilities?
Where can you find answers to these and other questions about technical writing issues?
The answer to that last question: the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications.
The first half of this reference book covers general topics, including the following:
- how to document a user interface
- how to make content understandable to a global audience
- how to make content accessible to persons with disabilities
- common style problems
- conventions for presenting developer information (for the truly technical)
It also includes a list of acronyms and abbreviations, so you can look up the meaning of DVD, MPEG, OOFS, PDF, and other technical letter combinations.
The second half of the book is a dictionary. Its short entries describe the "standard usage for technical terms and common words and phrases" that often result in usage problems. Many entries include examples of correct and incorrect uses. In fact, there are quite a few entries that simply start with "Do not use," such as backtab, datum, he/she, and strike (you'll have to check the book to find out why).
Of course, it's important to remember that style is a personal—or corporate—decision. You're not obligated to follow Microsoft's recommendations. But if you want to keep your technical communications clear, this book is a good starting point.