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September/October 2010

Forget GQ

Part G. The Place To Go for Style Questions

We may live in a world where style often trumps substance, but that is certainly not true of ASTM International standards. Despite that, standards developers do need to be concerned with standards style, and Part G, Standards Style Manual, of Form and Style for ASTM Standards, is the best place to have style questions answered.

When preparing the manuscript of a standard, it is important to remember that assistance is available to make sure that the document conforms to style long before it goes to ballot. In addition to ASTM editors, who ensure that a document is properly styled, many ASTM committees have editorial subcommittees that review standards before submission to headquarters.

In addition, visiting “Key Documents and Forms” on the ASTM website leads to the online version of Form and Style, along with online templates to assist in formatting your manuscript and committee white papers that present style instructions that are specific to your committee.

While all of the resources are helpful, let’s take a moment to focus on a few specific subsections of Part G of Form and Style. Since some of the subsections mentioned here are extensive, it is entirely possible that Rules&Regs columns devoted to those subsections could be forthcoming.

G2. Electronic Manuscript Preparation: This section provides guidance on the mechanics of preparing your manuscript, depending on whether it is a new standard, an extensive revision to an existing standard or a minimum/moderate set of revisions to a standard. It is important to note that a rationale explaining the reason for the ballot is mandatory for all ballots.

G3. Abbreviations and Unit Symbols: Here you will find general style points as well as a useful list of abbreviations and symbols so common that they may be used in a standard without explanation.

G12. Creating and Submitting Figures for Ballot: This section, which provides detailed notes on how to properly submit figures, was covered in a previous Rules&Regs column, in the May/June 2010 SN.

G16. Mathematical Material: Specific information concerning Greek symbols, superscripts and subscripts, equations and statistical data is presented here.

It is important to note that mathematical material must be submitted clearly, without the possibility of ambiguities arising from misplaced subscripts and superscripts, confusion between Greek and Roman letters, and other issues.

G21/G22. References: These two sections provide detailed instructions on how to cite references in a standard, depending on what type of reference is being cited and the number of references. G21 includes information on documents other than standards, while G22 provides instructions on citing standards.

G25. Spelling: This section contains the correct spelling of a list of words frequently used in ASTM standards. One notable recent change to this list is the spelling of the word “gauge.” Note the inclusion of the letter “u.”

G27. Tables: Information provided here includes notes on use of powers of 10, footnotes and notes within tables.

G31. Trademarks: It is best to avoid the use of trademarks in standards whenever possible. G31 includes a list of trademarks, along with the generic terms, such as “aluminum oxide” or “petroleum jelly” that should be used in their place.