It’s been half a year since Microsoft released a new edition of their manual of style. The long-time reference of a few generations of technical communicators has been renamed, revamped, and rethought in several aspects.
It took us quite some time to grasp all the changes and ideas crafted by Microsoft, and in one of our previous posts, we’ve already summarized some of them. Now we would like to share our impressions about the new style guide in terms of its format, structure, and content.
Fresh format for free
Don’t judge the book by its cover, they say. However, this is exactly the case when the cover (or lack thereof) is the first thing you notice.
New web format
Now Microsoft Style Guide is first and foremost a neat website with search, sharing, and feedback capabilities. Kudos to you for that, Microsoft! As a frequent MSG user in-between the two formats, I often refer to MSG. And that being a tiny bookmark on my browser panel readily accessible on all my devices anytime makes it an easy and convenient reference for everyday use.
(not) The same PDF
Don’t worry, book lovers! MSG is also a hefty downloadable PDF. 1026 pages, that is a lot to read! In the printed format, it becomes very visible that each topic takes not more than two pages and has a lot of white space. Which, paired with the refreshed color scheme, looks crisp and neat.
You can give feedback via a traditional Was this article helpful? Yes/No question or sign in using your GitHub account and posting it on GitHub Issues. I guess some of us will need to dig out our GitHub credentials to leave a comment.
Now you can switch between light and dark themes. How awesome is that?
Integration with Microsoft Docs
The last but not least: MSG lives within Microsoft Docs next to the documentation on their technologies, frameworks, and platforms. The only drawback here: I couldn’t locate it within the Microsoft Docs structure, only found it by searching.
Simple (not quite) searchable structure
When the exterior changes sink in, it’s time to look closer at what’s inside.
This kind of structure may make you feel confused a bit, as at a first glance, there are not so many chapters you can recognize. The Welcome topic is your best friend, as it introduces the most drastic changes. Check out the list of changes in A–Z topics we’ve prepared—it will help you get acquainted with the new stuff.
Speaking about A–Z topics: The chapter about them is called A–Z word list and term collections, and A, obviously, being the first letter in the alphabet, goes at the beginning of the TOC. I find its position very inconvenient, as this chapter has 28 subheadings (including term collections and numbers). Use the search, duh, you would say. And you would be right, should we be speaking only about the web format. But what is a classical three-level list with collapsible headings in web, in print is 30(!) pages of blue text.
Mini-TOCs in web
On the bright side, each topic has a mini-TOC. This makes the inside navigation quick and transparent, and you can easily track how much of the chapter is left.
Caring but not careless content
Having scraped off the first two layers of changes, we finally reached the deepest tier, and that is the content itself.
Tone and voice
Four words: Less head, more heart. And truly, MSG sounds more like a good friend trying to help you, rather than a robot reciting an instruction. Shorter sentences, clear points. Contractions. Humor.
I know, some authors will disagree with this new approach, saying that our content may turn too colloquial, and chatty, and not technical altogether. What can I say? I find this new Microsoft tone and voice liberating It provides us with more creative freedom. The point is that we can choose how to write depending on our audience and the deliverable.
New topics, new rules. No rules?
I noticed that the instructions are more generic. There is less nitpicking in each case, and overall, the delivery is concise. That’s the beauty of it: Grasp the core and build your own content around it.
MSG authors added a ton of chapters, like chatbots, type, and responsive content guidelines. Several ground rules have been changed:
- Oxford comma now is a must.
- Tap/swipe/click—all these are replaced with select.
- Sentence-style capitalization is emphasized.
And these are just a tiny part of the changes in word choice, grammar, punctuation, and formatting.
MSG is live and alive, and you can track how it evolves. The good ole’ What’s new is strong with this one. It is great to know that MSG is being constantly developed and that it reflects our current world much better.
In a nutshell, I think the new Microsoft Style Guide is a child of its time: It is modern, it keeps up with the latest technologies, and above all, it is humane.
For those who want to make sure they’ve mastered all the minuscule changes introduced with MSG, we are preparing a quiz. Stay tuned to check your knowledge: Is it Big Data or big data? And surely let us know your thoughts!