As mentioned above, style guides describe what we write and how we write it. In other words, a good style guide not only contains information about how documents are to be structured and laid out, i.e., document quality, it also provides information about the process by which good documentation is created – the authoring process itself.
Besides these basic categories – document quality and authoring process – many aspects still need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Since when determining what to put into a style guide, the target group for the guide is just as important as the quality objectives. If the users of your guide only occasionally create documents, a rule stating, for example, “Avoid noun-verb combinations” makes little sense, as the chances are your readers will not even know what a noun-verb combination is.
A guide may also not contain any rules whatsoever, if, for example, the target group is likely to interpret them as patronizing. In such cases, the style guide can take the form of a tool describing best practices or formulation recommendations. The rule of thumb is therefore: The more accustomed the target group for your style guide is to writing, the more the rules can be formulated in a binding and technical manner. What is important, however, is that you also test this premise on your target group. For example, you may sometimes assume that your colleagues possess a level of grammatical knowledge that in reality is beyond them.