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New member looking for style manual

New member looking for style manual

New member looking for style manual

Is there a manual of style for engineering documents?  Some of the usage questions are general but others are specific to, say, engineering and construction.  

I found this forum via a Google search regarding comply with comply to. Thanks!


RE: New member looking for style manual

There isn't one for specifically engineering that I am aware of.

MS Word 2010 (and Word 2007) allows you to set the document style under References/Citations & Bibliography to various styles like APA, Chicago, Harvard or MLA plus others. Word 2003 also had style settings, but the location may be different.

"Wildfires are dangerous, hard to control, and economically catastrophic."

Ben Loosli

RE: New member looking for style manual

If you use the Seach function for this forum and look for "sty;e" you will find several discussions on the subject.

RE: New member looking for style manual

I didn't find anything under "sty;e".  bigsmile

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering


RE: New member looking for style manual

You can probably find a used copy of the Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific Writing Guide fairly cheap.  It's a comprehensive guide used as a textbook in college level courses.  

There's always the old standby Strunk and White Grammar and Style or Chicago Style Writing Guide.

Out in the real world, the company you work for likely has at least a loose guideline for organization of a technical report suited to their line of work.  Not all companies seem to settle on a grammar and spelling guide, though.  It's always good to have your own source other that MS dictionary/spelling/grammar guide loaded onto the PC.   

"Gorgeous hair is the best revenge."  Ivana Trump

RE: New member looking for style manual

I keep a copy of 'Strunk and White:  The Elements of Style' handy but I does not have anything specific to 'engineering' documents although I would assume that many of it's 'rules' would hold true as well, such as 'Do not overwrite', Do not overstate', 'Use orthodox spelling', 'Do not inject opinion', 'Use figures of speech sparingly', and this one which would appear to be of particular relevance for engineering reports, 'Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity'.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Design Solutions
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
UG/NX Museum:   http://www.plmworld.org/p/cm/ld/fid=209

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: New member looking for style manual

Thank you, everyone.  I am familiar with regular style manuals, but there are words that I've noticed come with infighting, like whether a term is one word or two.  Some of them I have been able to look up online and get my answer in American vs. British usage, but for others... well, some people rely on me to figure this stuff out and don't already have a manual.  winky smile
   Then there is the whole legalese aspect of specifications.  I don't like working with specs, and I try not to, but I should probably learn more about them.
   The Mayfield guide sounds intriguing & I will look it up, thanks.  I think I downloaded a copy of some kind of style guide from the Corps of Engineers as well, which could come in handy.

RE: New member looking for style manual

The spelling of certain words as one, hyphenated, or two is immaterial as far as I am concerned.  All you have to do is be consistent and it helps to have a basis for your choice.  That basis should be something a bit more authoritative than, 'it looks right', 'this is how WE have always spelled it', or 'my computer puts a squiggly line under it if is spell it the other way.'  

Arguing about it is what people do who are without enough actual work to do or have a deep-seated psychological need to meddle.  I had an old boss who used to call it 'picking fly sh!t out of pepper.'

Pick a source.  In my world, technical terms are spelled, and abbreviated the way Means Construction Dictionary does.  For regular language, it's Merriam Webster.

Technical writing covers many things, specifications is just one of them.  In general, specifications are a completely different animal from other technical writing, such as investigation, soils, or due dilligence reports.  One thing they should NOT be is filled with legalese.  Specifications should be just the opposite.  There are more resources and guides than I can list for specifications.  I have the Army Corps of Engineers guide, but I would not use their style for other projects.  There are some governmental agencies that have far more generic guides.

To begin to understand specifications, start with just looking at the oganization of a Project Manual.  Download the MasterFormat list of specification headings.  Be careful about just hitting the print button.  It's close to 200 pages long.  The most recent version was issued this year in March.  The Construction Specification Institute has many useful guides as well.

And stop using Google to figure out if a word should be one or two.  

"Gorgeous hair is the best revenge."  Ivana Trump

RE: New member looking for style manual

Well, if writing for the military they have style guides, at least the UK did.

Sadly, if I recall correctly, the style guard was 'classified' or maybe 'restricted'  - go figure.  However, if you have govt contracts you may be able to get a copy.

Certain industry standards can give some guidance.

For instance I think ASME Y14.100 dictates meaning of Shall, Will etc.

Some argue we shouldn't use 'passive voice' anymore but per Y14100 it's implied that we should - at least on drawings.  

To my mind for formal documentation, especially standards, requirements etc. passive voice just seems more explicit etc.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: New member looking for style manual

And then there's the issue of 'jargon' usage, particularly when the engineering diciplines are more obscure (or do we just think of them as being more obscure simply because we're not as familiar with their jargon) or if you're like me, a mechanical engineer working in the software industry, constantly having to figure out all the TLA's (Three Letter Acronyms) which seem to be Particularly popular with computer hardware and software developers winky smile

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Design Solutions
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
UG/NX Museum:   http://www.plmworld.org/p/cm/ld/fid=209

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: New member looking for style manual

There is the Government Printing Office (GPO) Style Guide.
There is MIL-STD-961, -962, and -967.
There is MIL-HDBK-61.

And of course you can follow the bread-crumb trail of referenced specs in any of those.


RE: New member looking for style manual

Thanks Casseiopea.

I think I would have found your old boss to be an unhelpfully vulgar person.

I appreciate your time and thought in response to my post.  I am working with small enough companies, and individuals, and independently, such that there are Not existing manuals, etc., to draw from necessarily, and one needs to establish these baselines and even teach people some of the basics, more importantly things like, yes, using Google to see if something is one word or two, because knowing how to look something up is more important than knowing one or two snippets of dogma.

I don't really care much about the "squiggly line" as there are too many words that the built-in checkers don't know.  Unfortunately I do not have the budget to purchase as many hard copies of reference materials as I need to cover the several fields that I work in.

Sometimes the problem is that technical people have less respect for language than literary people have for science.   

RE: New member looking for style manual

I have a copy of The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual.  It's not heavy on technical/scientific terms, but it can be a useful source at times.  


Engineering is not the science behind building.  It is the science behind not building.   

RE: New member looking for style manual

A really good style guide for technical writing is the McGraw-Hill Style Manual.

"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

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