Looking to comply with ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English®?
If you’re working in the aviation or aerospace and defense industry and are involved with technical documentation, it’s very likely you’ve come across a specification called ASD-STE100 (link to ASD-STE100.org). STE stands for Simplified Technical English (link to ASD STE page) and promotes clarity in technical writing through the key principle that one word can only have one meaning as well as by providing the writer with a set of writing rules. Because of its benefits (safety being a crucial one), more and more often technical publications are required to comply with ASD-STE100, either as a direct contractual requirement between manufacturers, their customers and their supply chain, or indirectly through other specifications for technical publications that call for Simplified Technical English, such as S1000D, ATA iSpec 2200 and MIL SPECs.
So what is entailed with becoming STE compliant?
Well, obtaining a free copy of the ASD-STE100 specification through ASD is a good start, but you’ll quickly realize that learning a 424-page document by heart is not going to be realistic, nor having your team of writers do the same, although having a copy at hand is great for reference purposes. In order to succesfully implement STE, its necessary to take these steps:
1. Writer Training
There are over 60 writing rules, so getting trained on them is essential. Not only will you learn how to write in STE but also why the writing rules are there in the first place. Furthermore, training teaches a writer to focus on the need-to-know only, which can result in writing 40% less text! These courses usually run 2 days but there are also options on taking online courses, which in Etteplan’s case take about 9 hours, usually divided in increments of 3 x 3 hours depending on the different time zones students are in. There are a number of providers out there that give STE training, including ASD itself. Our highly valued training was received by over 3,200 writers and engineers, and being the first company to have received an official Certificate from the UNINETTUNO UNIVERSITY in giving STE Training, we would welcome the opportunity to assist you with your training needs.
Moreover, we are also the first to develop an e-learning course fully dedicated to STE, making it easier for both individual (freelance) writers and large enterprise companies to receive training.
2. Creating your company dictionary
As the STE spec ‘only’ contains about 3,000 words many words that are specific to your company or even industry will not be in there, so it will always be necessary to create a company specific dictionary or even multiple dictionaries in case you have different divisions or projects that require their own terminology. Plus you will need to standardize your words, which means they need to follow the key principle ‘one word = one meaning’: it will no longer be possible to use multiple words that have the same meaning, or use a word that has multiple meanings. This sounds restrictive, but it is a necessary step for the sake of not confusing your end user, which can have negative effects on how your product is evaluated but can also lead to dangerous situations if misinterpreted.
3. Checker software
Checker software helps content creators check their content for compliance with STE. Having the right checking software in place will aid the writer in becoming STE compliant faster and more efficiently: it will be nearly impossible to overlook errors with a checker in place, company terms are being checked against, running reports on thousands of words will save time making the compliance checking very much of an automated process, leaving room for the writer to focus on creating content that is clear, consice and consistent.
Other important considerations
It’s important to note that doing only one or two of the above mentioned steps to become STE compliant is not going to be sufficient, or at least not give you the full benefits. But there are other aspect to take into consideration as well:
- Creating awareness amongst everyone in the organization that will directly or indirectly be impacted by STE. For instance, if you have SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) that contribute to the writing process, it’s very important that they are made aware of this initiative. Otherwise, you may encounter resistance to STE.
- Maintaining your company dictionary: depending on the size of the organization, you may want to create a terminology board and assign key users in each business unit. These key users should also be able to discuss and decide whether to approve or not approve new terms. A process that will take some effort at the early stage after the implementation.
- Be aware that in the early phase of STE adoption writers usually require more time to write STE compliant content, because it’s a new way of writing. It may feel more restrictive in the beginning, but that’s simply because you are getting used to the new way of writing.
- Define what support is available, both with the software, as well as with applying the writing rules and terminology management. Where do users go, if not directly to the vendor? It will be helpful to have key users also answer any questions the technical writers or SMEs may have.
- Setting metrics and KPIs: in order to set your goals, such as quality score and cost savings, you first need to know what your current cost or inefficiency is. Checker software can help here through the reports you can generate, showing you for instance your current compliance level and what areas to focus on, which can be a great help if you have to convert many tech pubs to become STE compliant.
To find out more about how to become ASD-STE100 compliant, contact us today! We offer free business case analyses and also provide free trial licenses of our HyperSTE content checker software.