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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Style Guide Meetings Suck Everywhere

-----Original Message-----
From: On Behalf Of Wright, Lynne
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2017 11:14 AM
To: TECHWR-L Writing <>
Subject: RE: Ethics in Technical Writing

"crybabies" brings to mind a particularly emotional meeting of the tech writing team that I once worked with.

As editor, I decided that we needed to nail down a style guide. My supervisor *suggested* that it would be good for team-building to hold regular meetings to try to get consensus on points of style, so I resigned myself to a process that I knew would just be unproductive chaos.

By the third meeting, I was bracing myself for yet another futile debate over whether to add punctuation to bulleted list points; which would absolutely be a battle of pedantics, as the previous meetings had been.

Instead, somebody started complaining about the fact that I used red ink to edit the hard copies of their work (as was the norm back in those days). They felt that red was "too violent and upsetting", and I should use green or purple ink instead. When I tried to reason that red ink just stands out best, things went off the rails, as each person chimed in with their "ethical" 2 cents about ink colors, and egos ran wild. 

That was the last style meeting I called.

-----Original Message-----
From: Gene Kim-Eng
Sent: May-02-17 11:50 AM
To: TECHWR-L Writing <>
Subject: Re: Ethics in Technical Writing

Ethical issues in technical writing arise when your employer or client wants you to put things in documents that you know are false, like safety certifications for products you know haven't had their safety evaluated, or to leave out critical items like hazard warnings.

Worrying about about questions of correct grammar vs jargon in noncritical verbiage that doesn't impact actual usage may be a little bit pedantic, but being a little bit pedantic is one of the things technical writers are paid to do. Being VERY pedantic and conflating pedantic matters with "ethics" is one reason why many people regard technical writers as crybabies.

Gene Kim-Eng

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