Document Conventions


Technical writing is typically so awash in capitalization that it often denotes nothing and harms legibility. To counter that, in general, this document follows the IBM Style Guide rule:

"Do not capitalize the names of features and components unless they are sold separately or are trademarked."

More specifically, the only things capitalized in this document are:

  • Company, person, country, geographic place, or organization names
  • Official or trademarked products or services, unless they officially have atypical capitalization, for instance iPod.
  • Acronyms and initializations
  • When referring to any UI labels that are capitalized
  • When the word begins a sentence or phrase

Code and Command Line Text

Variable text in literal typed-in text and command-line parameters follow these industry-wide standards:

  • All code and command-line interface text appears in monospaced text.
  • Required parameters appear in angle brackets: ping <hostname>
  • Optional parameters appear in square brackets: mkdir [-p] <dirname>
  • Repeated parameters are followed by ellipses: cp <source1> [source2...] <dest>
  • Multiple choice items are separated by vertical bars and grouped by curly brackets: netstat {-t|-u}

Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Keyboard keys are bolded and surrounded with square brackets: [Enter]
  • Concurrent key presses are denoted with plus signs: [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[Del]
  • Sequential key presses are denoted by commas: [Page Down], [Enter]


There are two types of notes: notes and important notes.

A note contains tangential (an aside) or supplemental information (a tip or clarification).
An important note contains substantive information that should be heeded, or negative consequences can occur, involving frustration, wasted time, or even data loss.

Other Special Text

  • Email addresses and URLs are usually denoted by a colored underline:
  • When URLs are part of the instruction, as opposed to clickable link, they appear in monospaced text: Type or click
  • Cross-references to headings are hyperlinks: See Booting a Server.
  • Document or article names (not sections) appear in italics: See the Server Administration Guide. They may or may not be hyperlinks.
  • All file and folder paths appear in monospaced text: app\bin\web_config.xml
  • File names by themselves do not appear in monospaced text: web_config.xml. If the file name contains spaces, the name is surrounded by quotation marks: "web config.xml".
Ending punctuation may be omitted for clarity when following typed-in text, including URLs.

Screen Components and Attentional Targets

  • Mouse-click, keyboard, and other attentional targets (anything a looks for) are denoted by bold type: OK button or Login link.
  • Attentional Targets and screen component names in system responses are not bolded: "The OK button appears" verses "Click the OK button."
  • Names of screen components, such as tabs, buttons, and text boxes, are corrected for spelling and capitalization. The component type appears in lowercase.