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IBM Style Guide, The: Conventions for Writers and Editors

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  • Description
  • Sample Content
  • Updates
  • Copyright 2011
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9-1/8"
  • Pages: 352
  • Edition: 1st
  • Rough Cuts
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-211897-1
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-211897-2

This is the Rough Cut version of the printed book.

The IBM Style Guide distills IBM wisdom for developing superior content: information that is consistent, clear, concise, and easy to translate. The IBM Style Guide can help any organization improve and standardize content across authors, delivery mechanisms, and geographic locations.

This expert guide contains practical guidance on topic-based writing, writing content for different media types, and writing for global audiences.

Throughout, the authors illustrate the guidance with many examples of correct and incorrect usage.

Writers and editors will find authoritative guidance on issues ranging from structuring information to writing usable procedures to presenting web addresses to handling cultural sensitivities.

The guidelines cover these topics:
  • Using language and grammar to write clearly and consistently
  • Applying punctuation marks and special characters correctly
  • Formatting, organizing, and structuring information so that it is easy to find and use
  • Using footnotes, cross-references, and links to point readers to valuable, related information
  • Presenting numerical information clearly
  • Documenting computer interfaces to make it easy for users to achieve their goals
  • Writing for diverse audiences, including guidelines for improving accessibility
  • Preparing clear and effective glossaries and indexes
The IBM Style Guide can help any organization or individual create and manage content more effectively. The guidelines are especially valuable for businesses that have not previously adopted a corporate style guide, for anyone who writes or edits for IBM as an employee or outside contractor, and for anyone who uses modern approaches to information architecture.

Table of Contents

Foreword     xviii
About this publication     xxi
Acknowledgments     xxii
About the authors     xxiv
Chapter 1 Language and grammar     1
Abbreviations     1
  General guidelines     1
  Spelled-out forms of abbreviations     3
  Periods with abbreviations     5
  Latin abbreviations     6
  Abbreviations in headings and titles     7
  Abbreviations in glossaries     7
  Abbreviations in indexes     7
  Abbreviations for units of time     8
Anthropomorphism     8
Articles     10
Capitalization     11
  Capitalization styles     11
  Capitalization and abbreviations     13
  Capitalization and colons     14
  Capitalization and figures     14
  Capitalization in general text     14
  Capitalization in glossaries     16
  Capitalization in headings and titles     16
  Capitalization and hyphens     17
  Capitalization in indexes     18
  Capitalization in interfaces     18
  Capitalization of letters as letters     19
  Capitalization in lists     20
  Capitalization for tables in text     20
  Capitalization of computer-related terms     20
Contractions     24
Prepositions     25
Pronouns     27
  Ambiguous pronoun references     27
   ender-neutral pronouns     27
  Personal pronouns     29
  Relative pronouns     29
Spelling     30
Verbs     31
  General guidelines     31
  Mood     32
  Person     33
  Tense     35
  Voice     35
Chapter 2 Punctuation     37
Punctuation marks and special characters     37
  Individual punctuation marks or special characters     37
  Series of punctuation marks or special characters     39
  Common punctuation marks and special characters     39
Apostrophes     41
  Apostrophes in plurals     41
  Apostrophes in possessives     41
Colons     42
  Colons in running text     42
  Colons in headings and titles     43
  Colons after introductory text     43
  Colons and capitalization     44
  Colons with numbers     45
Commas     45
  Commas between clauses     45
  Commas after introductory words and phrases     46
  Commas between items in a series     47
  Commas with nonrestrictive clauses     47
  Commas as separators in numbers     47
  Commas with quotation marks     48
Dashes     48
  En dashes     48
  Em dashes     48
Ellipses     49
  Ellipses in running text     49
  Ellipses in examples and quotations     49
  Ellipses in user interfaces      50
  Spacing and punctuation with ellipses     50
Exclamation points     51
Hyphens     51
  Hyphens with prefixes and suffixes     51
  Hyphens with compound words     53
  Hyphens and capitalization     55
  Hyphens with numbers     56
  Hyphens with ranges     56
Parentheses     57
  Parentheses with abbreviations, symbols, and measurements     57
  Parentheses to form plurals     57
  Parentheses in running text     57
Periods     59
  Periods in running text     59
  Periods with abbreviations     59
  Periods with file name extensions     60
  Periods in headings and titles     61
  Periods after introductory text     61
  Periods with lists     62
  Periods with numbers     63
  Periods with parentheses      63
  Periods with quotation marks      63
Quotation marks     64
  Terminology for quotation marks     64
  Quotation marks for emphasis     64
  Double quotation marks     65
  Single quotation marks     66
  Quotation marks with other punctuation     66
  Typographical considerations for quotation marks     67
Semicolons     67
  Semicolons between independent clauses     68
  Semicolons between items in a series     68
Slashes     68
  Slashes in running text     69
  Slashes in dates     70
  Slashes in fractions     70
  Slashes in mathematical equations     70
  Slashes in path names     70
  Slashes in web addresses     71
Chapter 3 Formatting and organization     73
Headings     73
  Format of headings     73
  Wording of headings     74
  Punctuation with headings      74
  Abbreviations in headings     75
  Lists     75
  Unordered lists     76
  Ordered lists     76
  Definition lists     76
  Capitalization in lists     78
  Wording of list items     78
  Length of lists     79
  Alphabetization and sorting methods of lists     79
  Punctuation in lists     80
  Lead-in wording     81
  Nested lists     83
Procedures     84
  Introducing the procedure     84
  Writing steps     86
  Indicating optional and conditional steps     88
  Handling nonsequential actions     88
  Ending the procedure      89
Figures     90
  Figure captions and legends     91
  Figure numbering     92
  Figure references     92
  Figure placement     93
  Callouts in illustrations     93
  Screen captures     94
Tables     96
  Text in tables     96
  Formatting tables     97
  Table headings     97
  Highlighting     102
  Notes and notices     110
  Revision indicators     114
Chapter 4 Structure     115
Topic-based information     115
  Task topics     116
  Concept topics     120
  Reference topics     124
  Links in topic-based information     128
Books     131
  Sequence of book elements     131
  Book elements and other items that might be included in a book     132
  Books: Front matter     134
  Books: Back matter     139
White papers     141
  Structuring your paper     141
  Writing your paper     142
  Getting your paper reviewed and edited     142
Chapter 5 References     143
Footnotes     143
  Footnotes in printed information     143
  Footnotes in online information     144
  Footnotes in tables     144
References to printed information     144
  General guidelines     144
  References within the same document     145
  References outside the document     146
References to online information     148
  General guidelines     148
  References to IBM information centers     149
  References to web addresses, protocols, and IP addresses     149
  References to webcasts, web conferences, and other online broadcasts     153
  Linking strategies     153
Chapter 6 Numbers and measurements     155
Expressing numbers     155
  Numerals versus words     156
  Separators in numbers      159
  Ranges of numbers     159
  Alignment of numbers in columns     161
  Fractions, percentages, and ratios      162
  Rounding numbers     163
  Different number bases     164
  Number complements     165
Mathematical equations and operational symbols     165
  Multiplication     166
  Exponents     166
Units of measurement     167
  Abbreviations     168
  Multiple dimensions     169
  Tolerances     169
  Dimension lines     169
  Temperatures     169 
  Multiplier prefixes for units of measurement     170
  Multiplier prefixes for bits and bytes      172
International currency designations     176
  Local currency symbols     177
Dates     178
  Abbreviated forms     179
  Leading zeros     180
  Date ranges     180
Times of the day     181
  Using the 12-hour system     181
  Using the 24-hour system     182
Telephone numbers     182
  National telephone numbers     183
  International telephone numbers     183
  Fictitious telephone numbers     184
Chapter 7 Computer interfaces     185
Commands     185
  Capitalization     185
  Commands, parameters, and options in running text     185
  Commands, parameters, and options in instructions     186
Command syntax      187
  Using text to specify command syntax     188
  Using diagrams to specify command syntax     192
Programming elements     196
  Keywords     196
  Variables     198
Code and command examples     198
Data entry on the command line      201
File names, file types, and directory names     203
Graphical user interface elements     206
  Location of interface elements     206
  Interface element labels     206
  Usage and highlighting for user interface elements     208
Menu instructions and navigation     216
  Menu instructions     216
  Navigation trees     217
  Directories     217
Mouse buttons     218
Keyboard keys     218
  Verbs to use with keyboard keys     218
  Key names     219
  Key combinations     220
Messages     221
  Message types     221
  Components of error, warning, and information messages     222
  Confirmation prompts     230
  References to messages in documentation     231
Chapter 8 Writing for diverse audiences     233
Accessibility     233
International audiences     235
  Style     236
  Grammar     237
  Terminology     240
  Punctuation     241
  Graphics and images     242
Chapter 9 Glossaries     245
Structure of glossary entries     245
Glossary terms     246
Glossary definitions     247
Relationships between terms in a glossary     251
Relationships between the glossary and other information     254
Sort order in a glossary     254
Chapter 10 Indexes      255
Levels of index entries     255
Integration and reuse     255
Size and sorting     256
Index content     256
Index structure     259
  Levels     259
  Locators     261
  Number of subentries     262
  Cross-posting     263
  See and See also references     264
  Other considerations     265
Index entries     266
  Prohibited words     269
Index sorting     270
Appendixes     273
Appendix A. Exceptions for marketing content     274
Appendix B. DITA tags for highlighting     276
Appendix C. Word usage     300
Index     381