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A review of Microsoft’s foray into the style-manual market

A job I was recently working on used the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications as its style manual.

Now, as a Mac user I try to avoid Microsoft products, so you can imagine my displeasure when I realized

  • Microsoft published a style manual
  • I had to abide by it

I found it lacking and wrong. A good style guide doesn’t require an editor to look elsewhere, but with the third edition just 398 pages, the Microsoft Manual of Style had me going to other resources numerous times (The Chicago Manual of Style‘s 15th edition, for example is 956 pages).

The goal of the book seems for Microsoft to justify all of the grammatical mistakes Word tries to push on users, such as its treatment of lists (p. 48):

  • always introducing them with a complete sentence or fragment followed by a colon
  • always starting each item with a capital letter

The Microsoft Manual of Style, however, does get a lot of rave reviews on Amazon.com, so maybe it does serve a purpose. It’s universally agreed, however, that the included CD-ROM is useless (it wouldn’t work at all on my PowerBook).

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