Our Manual of Style is lengthy, comprehensive and really sucks to try to read or use. Compare to a really readable reference, like Fowler or Strunk & White. Or even Chicago. Have you ever picked up those books and thought “this is really good, I can use this stuff”? I’d hope you had. If you have aspirations to writing better, those books get your brain sizzling.
But, rather than being a guideline for thoughtful application by editors seeking guidance in writing effective encyclopedia entries, our manual of style has become a sequence of programming instructions for bots. So no-one ever looks at it unless they’re looking for (or adding) a stick to hit other editors with.
Our MOS should be something that editors will want to read.
Here‘s my attempt to make the intro readable.
Anyone want to help recast the rest of the megabytes of MOS as thoughtful guidance in English, rather than programming instructions for bots and weapons to be wielded by the antisocial?
- Who, what, where, when, why?
- Summary Lead section, then inverted pyramid.
- Omit needless words.
- The Economist Style Guide: clarity with precision. (“I love The Economist. It’s like a really rational guy on crack.” — Erithromycin)
- HOWTO: write bad documentation that looks good. “Why” is almost more important than “what.”
- Brevity. “It’s about viral payload density.” — John Hawkes-Reed
I sometimes picture my reader as a very bright ten- to twelve-year-old. Someone with a good reading age, but who knows nothing yet. Did you used to devour encyclopaedias as a kid?