. In technical publishing, there seems to be a running battle between technical writers and technical experts over capital
ization. Technical experts like to use initial caps for practically every component and process in a system, while technical writers insist on using caps for proper names only. Also, technical experts (and management) typically use all caps for text they consider important and want readers to attend to.
As a technical writer, hold the line against capital
letters are distracting; all-caps text is uncomfortable to read. Capital
letters create a busy text, which sends lots of unnecessary signals. Capital
letters are traditionally intended for proper names such as Microsoft, Netscape, Gateway, Dell Computers, WordPerfect, Pagemaker, and so on. The classic guidelines in technical publishing is to capital
ize the names of separately orderable products
only. However, the politics of organizations bends this guideline considerably. If a company is proud of a certain feature in its new release, for example, EnergyMiser, it will capital
ize it, even though you can't order it separately. This is the point at which capital
ization is being for emphasis. As a technical writer, you'll want to user caps for proper names and keep the use of caps as an emphasis technique to a minimum.
Here are some typical guidelines for capital
- Use the exact capitalization style of messages shown on the computer screen, menu or screen names, field names, hardware labels, and so on.
- Do not use capital letters for emphasis; use italics or bold instead.
- Do not capitalize the names of the components or processes of a product. Capitalize only the names of products, that is, components that are separately orderable.
For example, your product may be called WordStuff and of course it must be capitalized according to the style dictated bny the marketing and product planners. However, one WordStuff's features called "spell checker" shouldn't be capitalized -- just about everybody has one of those. However, WordStuff may have a feature called "ZippyFormat" and other called "Image Worker." Even though these are not separately orderable, you will want to use the initial-cap style because of their specialstyle and the ir marketing value. "Image Worker" is obviously something WordStuff, Inc., wants to show off -- therefore, the caps.