Power Tools for Technical Communication:
Create a Prototype and Style Guide

As you know from Chapter 22 of Power Tools for Technical Communication, prototypes and style guides are important tools for teams working together to create a document. In this lab, you create both a prototype and a style guide for a team-writing project.

Create a Prototype

The prototype in a printed document illustrating the style and format of major sections of a document (title page, table of contents, etc.) as well as all major textual elements (bulleted lists, numbered lists, headings, etc.) The prototype also shows things like page size and margins, footers and headers, font, and other such details.

A printed prototype of course is not enough. You can't tell exactly from a printout what fonts, type sizes, or margins are being used. That's where templates and styles come in. A style guide can help in that regard too.

To create a prototype:

  1. Use the specifications listed in Creating Templates for Technical Reports to develop this prototype.

  2. Use the "greeked text" as dummy text in headings, paragraphs, lists, tables, and other such areas of the prototype.

  3. Create a prototype that has the following parts:
    • title page
    • table of contents page
    • abstract page
    • body pages

  4. Create as many body pages as you need to include the following:
    • headers or footers
    • all three levels of headings
    • regular paragraphs
    • indented paragraph
    • bulleted list
    • numbered list
    • table with title (two or three columns and rows)
    • figure title (beneath an empty text box with the words "illustration here")

Create a Style Guide

Before desktop publishing, documentation people relied on painstakingly detailed charts of specification such as the one for the report template. Now, all you have to do is import the electronic template, and all those specifications (fonts, margins, alignment, etc.) are automatically set.

Thus a style guide is more useful for tricky issues involving highlighting, punctuation, capitalization, terminology and other things that can't be controlled by computers. As discussed in Chapter 22 of Power Tools for Technical Communication, a style guide specifies rules or guidelines for style and format that are stated nowhere else. But some style guides also specify rules that people often forget or are confused about. The goal of a style guide is to make the different parts of a project written by different team members resemble each other as much possible.

To create your style guide:

  1. Go to and study the style and format used in that document.

  2. Review the format of the excerpt of a style guide shown in Chapter 22 of Power Tools for Technical Communication.

  3. Create a style guide that states the following rules or guidelines based on what you see in the document:
    • Bulleted lists: punctuation and capitalization
    • Numbered lists: punctuation and capitalization
    • In-sentence (horizontal) lists: numbers or letters? both parentheses?
    • Headings: punctuation and capitalization
    • Highlighting: uses of bold, italics, other fonts, caps, quotation marks, etc.
    • Symbols: %, #, &, ", ', — or percent, number, and, inches, feet, or to?
    • Numbers: words or digits and under what circumstances?
    • Abbreviations and acronyms: mm or meter? U.S.A. or USA? Latin abbreviations okay?
    • Terminology: make sure word choice for important objects, processes, or concepts does not vary! (List preferred terms and their "non-preferred" variants.)

  4. When you have completed both the prototype and the style guide, put your name and date on them, and hand them into your instructor.

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