Editors, writers, and content creators: get in line to purchase the newest edition of the Microsoft Manual of Style! Now in its fourth edition, the Microsoft Manual of Style provides essential style and usage guidance for everyone who writes about computer technology. Fully updated and optimized for ease of use, this reference features:
■ Glossary for 1000+ terms and acronyms
■ Clear concise usage guidelines with examples and alternatives
■ Guidance on style, “voice,” formatting, and grammar
■ Insights on emerging terminology and standards.
■ Guidance on accessibility considerations
The list of contents can be found on this previous post.
Below is an excerpt from Chapter, 3 “Content for a worldwide audience.”
Content for a worldwide audience
Because Microsoft sells its products and services worldwide, content from Microsoft must be
suitable for a worldwide audience. Microsoft makes content usable worldwide in these ways:
■ By globalizing content
■ By localizing content
■ By machine translation of content
■ Through content curation and support of community-based contributions
Writers and editors globalize content by creating content that is easy to read and translate.
Content is localized by translating the content into other languages and ensuring that any country
or region specific information in the content is made appropriate for the target audience. Machine
translation is used for content that is not translated by localizers in order to make as much content as
possible available to worldwide users in their native languages.
Making content usable worldwide begins with globalization. The topics in this section show you
how to globalize your content.
Global English syntax
For the most part, syntax that is good for a worldwide audience is also good for native English
speakers. The following guidelines are helpful to all users of technical content, but they are especially
helpful to non-native English speakers.
Machine translation syntax
Machine translation (MT) is a method for translating text automatically from one language to
another. Machine translation is used to speed up the process of delivering products, services,
and content to non-English speaking markets, and to increase the number of languages in which
products, services, and content are available.
Machine translation takes sentences in a source language as input, and produces a translation of
the source sentences in a specified target language. The output of machine translation is sometimes
post-edited by human translators, and sometimes published without a review by a human.
The style of the source language has significant impact on the quality of the translation and how
well the translated content can be understood.
If machine translation will be used to translate your content, use the following guidelines in
addition to the global English syntax guidelines.
Terminology and word choice
Precision and accuracy in terminology and word choices help with comprehension make the
translation and localization processes easier. For more information about using terminology
consistently, see Chapter 1, “Microsoft style and voice”.
If you are writing for a general audience, consider your use of technical terms. People who do not
think of themselves as computer professionals often consider technical terms to be a major stumbling
block to understanding. Whenever possible, you should get your point across by using common
English words. It is all right to use technical terms when they are necessary for precise communication,
even with a general audience, but do not write as if everybody understands these terms or will
immediately grasp their meaning. Define terms in the text as you introduce them. Provide a glossary
with your content, and provide links from the main text to the glossary if you are writing for online
Help or for the web.
If you are writing for a technical audience, use domain-specific terminology only when the
terminology is necessary to make your content precise and accurate. Be sure to use technical
terms as they are defined at Microsoft and industry wide. To verify the industry-wide meaning, use
authoritative resources, not unedited websites. For example, you can use domain books and dictionaries
such as the American Heritage Dictionary. You can use authoritative terminology websites such
as Webopedia.com, BusinessDictionary.com, and Whatis.com, and industry standard sites such as
the W3C site. For recent usage citations of words that may be too new for dictionaries, you can refer
to websites such as those for trade and consumer magazines. If you are writing about terminology
for another product or service, you can check that group’s project style sheet. Even for a technical
audience, define terms in the text as you introduce them. Provide a glossary with your content, and
provide links from the main text to the glossary if you are writing for online Help or for the web.
Use the same terms in marketing materials as those that are used in the product, service, tool,
or website. Do not create a new term if a term describing a concept already exists. If you must
create a new term, verify that the term that you select is not already in use to mean something else.
Regardless of audience, avoid giving specific technical meaning to common English words. Even if
new terms are well grounded in the everyday definition of a word, those reading your content may
not be attuned to the subtleties of meaning that underlie such terms, and they may try to make sense
of the material by using the common definition. For more information, see Jargon.
Jargon, as a general reference to the technical language that is used by some particular profession or
other group, is a neutral concept. In the right context, for a particular audience, jargon can serve as
verbal shorthand for well-understood concepts. For example, technical terms are usually all right to
use in content for a technical audience that expects a higher level of technical rigor.
However, in the wrong context, jargon is little more than technical slang that makes technology
more difficult for many users. Many acronyms and abbreviations fall into this category. This category
of jargon affects nearly all uninitiated users at least some of the time, especially worldwide users. In
many cases, jargon is difficult to translate and can cause geopolitical or cultural misunderstandings.
Do not use jargon if any of the following is true:
■ You could easily use a more familiar term.
■ The term obscures rather than clarifies meaning. Be particularly wary of terms that are familiar
to only a small segment of your customers, such as the term glyph to mean symbol.
■ The term is not specific to computer software, networks, operating systems, and the like. That
is, avoid marketing and journalistic jargon. For example, don’t use leverage the new technology
to mean “to take advantage of the new technology.”
Testing for jargon
If you are familiar with a term, how can you tell whether it is jargon that you should avoid? If the term
is not listed either in MSTP or your project style sheet, consider the following:
■ If you are not sure, consider it jargon.
■ If an editor or reviewer questions the use of a term, it may be jargon.
■ If the term is used in newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, or in
general interest magazines, such as Time or Newsweek, it is may be all right to use for some
■ If the term is used in technical periodicals such as CNET (http://www.cnet.com), it is probably
all right to use for a technical audience. However, be aware that technical magazines often
adopt a more idiomatic style than is appropriate for a worldwide audience, and that magazine
style can include usages that would be considered slang.
Latin and other non-English words
Do not use non-English words or phrases, such as de facto or ad hoc, in English content, even if you
think these terms are generally known and understood. They may not be, or the language may not be
understood by a translator or by the machine translation process. Find a straightforward substitute in
In general, do not use Latin abbreviations for common English phrases.
It is all right to use etc. (meaning “and the rest”), but only in situations where space is too limited
for an alternative, such as on a button label. Otherwise, see and so on for alternatives.
Art presents many globalization issues. Colors and images that are unexceptionable in one place
may be offensive somewhere else. Art that relies on metaphor may not be understood everywhere.
In some cases, art can even raise legal problems. To globalize your art, use the guidelines in the
Examples and scenarios
Fictitious examples that include names of people, places, or organizations are always potentially
sensitive, both legally and from a worldwide perspective. Use-case scenarios, which are detailed
descriptions of specific user interactions with a product, service, or technology, present similar
problems. To globalize examples and use-case scenarios, use the guidelines in the following table.