From Google developer documentation style guide:

This style guide provides editorial guidelines for writing clear and consistent Google-related developer documentation.

My native language is Russian. In Russian, we have the following related words:

  • рекомендации (= recommendations)
  • правила (= rules)
  • указания (= directions)

But it seems we don't have a word for guidelines, and so I don't completely understand how is it different from recommendations or rules/directions.

Is it correct that guidelines are stronger than recommendations, but aren't as strong as rules or directions? Or maybe not, and we can simply replace the word guidelines with recommendations?

This question is related to my own style guide in Russian. Since in Russian we don't have a word for guidelines, I'm not sure whether to call guidelines recommendations (in Russian, of course) or just use the English word guidelines without translation instead. The word recommendations (рекомендации) looks too weak to me in both English and Russian.


I would explain the differences between the meanings of the words 'guidelines', 'recommendations', 'rules', and 'directions' as follows:

Rules are almost like laws and are often enforced by someone. Company rules that are ignored will make someone unhappy with you.

Directions are how one person tells another person how to do something. Often used when an experienced person is teaching rules or guidelines to a trainee, often in a step by step manner.

Recommendations are like advice. They are what one person thinks should be done, as in "I would do it this way if I were you."

Guidelines are generally accepted ways of doing something. Think of them as "accepted industry best practices". You can ignore them, but others have found that they are the best way to do something.

  • 1
    I'm not convinced by this. To my mind, if a company issues recommendations to the staff, this would normally be significantly stronger than simply issuing guidelines, when it comes to the question of how seriously thay might take exception to any staff who fail to fall in line with "suggested" practices. But you seem to be implying the opposite, here. Sep 6 at 17:45
  • The reason why 'recommendations' from an employer (or government) are stronger than what I define above is because most employers use 'bureaucrat speak', where they pretend to be polite by calling their rules and orders guidelines. If someone will punish you if you deviate from what they tell you what to do, what they say are actually rules or orders even if they call it a guideline. You see this type of meaning slippage all the time in politics, as when someone calls a undeclared war a 'police action' or a new tax 'revenue enhancement', or when employers call janitors 'sanitation engineers'. Sep 7 at 5:56

Rules, whether formal or informal, are the conventions that are drawn up for the administration of institutions, assemblies, sports, clubs, meetings and the like.

Where sports ae concerned, rules are often interchangeable with laws. There are numerous explanations of the laws of golf, meaning the rules by which the game is played. Disputes are decided according to the rules. Some rules may be understood rather than prescribed; they are customs/practices/behaviour expected of those concerned. Generally, there are penalties for the breach of rules.

Recommendations are suggestions. They may well be formal or informal, corporate or personal. They may apply to any behaviour, dress-code, practices, methods of working, use of transport and the like. They will often me made by people in authority as a guide to members, staff or students. Doctors may recommend that patients lose weight or exercise more often. Teachers may recommend that pupils don't spend long hours in front of the TV. Recommendations don't usually come with penalties, although warnings may well be issued to those who ignore them.

Guidelines are suggested ways of approaching something, often issued by manufacturers for the use of a product, frequently specifying the order of steps to be taken. Typical examples might be erecting a tent, assembling a flat-pack item of furniture, preparing a report, using an appliance/device and selecting suitable clothes for a hike - any activity in which the suggested procedure is important to a successful outcome.

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