If you’re an engineer this might sound simple. If you’re an end-user this might sound highly complex.
Welcome to Etteplan’s in-depth guide to Simplified Technical English. If you are looking for ways to engage with your customers, speak with one clear tone-of-voice and increase brand awareness then this guide to Simplified Technical English is exactly what you (and your organization) looking for.
We are here to give you a better understanding of what Simplified English is, talk about its benefits of Simplified Technical English, and – more importantly – show you how your organization can benefit from embracing Simplified Technical English best practices.
Etteplan is a well established name in the Simplified (Technical) English field. We provide best-of-class software and are home to 3500 specialists around the world.
We provide solutions for industrial equipment and plant engineering, software and embedded solutions, and technical documentation solutions to the world’s leading companies in the manufacturing industry.
We aim to improve the engineering process and the competitiveness of our clients’ products.
Etteplan’s software and implementation strategy can be seen throughout leading companies in various industries.
Before we start…
Understanding Simplified English can be discouraging because of the large amounts of knowledge available. To make sure everything we talk about on this page is understood correctly we’ll go through some definitions first.
Setting foot on Simplified Technical English terrain can be quite daunting. There are lots of abbreviations, terms, and tools used interchangeably.
To make things more clear (we preach Simplified English after all…) we made a terminology list that helps better understand the rest of this guide.
The difference between…
Let’s clear something up before we start: the difference between Simplified English and Simplified Technical English.
Simplified English is a pre-determined collection of words and writing rules specifically made to help write instructions and instruction manuals so that any individual (in the world) can clearly read the manual without a doubt. It is especially helpful for those whose native language isn’t English.
Simplified Technical English is likewise also a predetermined collection of words and writing rules, however, classified as a ‘controlled language’, initially developed by the aerospace industry and later on adopted by more industries. It focuses on simplifying Technical instructions.
ASD-STE100 is the official name of the controlled language commonly known as ‘Simplified Technical English’.
Companies and industries developed in-house ‘checker’-tools to help write and double-check written documents for errors, translation mistakes, and grammar mistakes. Boeing uses ‘BSEC’ for example, where TechScribe is a term checker that helps writers to find words that do not match with the ASD-STE100 specification.
We also developed our own checker software to make the lives of writers easier, named HyperSTE. Since 2003 it is widely used by various industries to check content for adherence to the rules and grammar of the specification.
HyperSTE has become the leading STE checker tool and can be used as a service.
HyperSTE is integrated into your authoring software and checks your content based on rules for terminology, spelling, grammar, length, style, and structure, and assists the writer with creating content that is more suitable for a global audience and is more cost-effective.
What is Simplified Technical English?
Simplified Technical English is a library of approved words in conjunction with a standard set of writing rules.
It’s specifically designed to help writers of documentation, such as instructions or manuals, write in such a manner so that anyone can read and understand the document.
The writing rules state specifically how words may be used. This decreases the misunderstanding significantly.
A collection of ‘approved words’, which are presented in UPPER CASE. Parts of speech and definitions are the only words that can be used.
Words shown as a noun cannot be used as a verb for example.
STE Writing rules
STE Writing rules are rules to create clarity. These are not specific to the industry or organization.
STE checker software
Software designed to efficiently check documents and texts for errors, based on the STE dictionary and the STE writing rules.
STE checker software (such as our very own HyperSTE) can be used on-premise or via a Cloud storage solution.
The benefits of Simplified Technical English
Simplified Technical English benefits are numerous and help the end user as well as employees.
It is important to understand that applying STE is always done for the end user. Writers benefit as well of course, but everything is done to diminish reading mistakes for the end-user of the product or service, and in turn, this results in better branding, faster time-to-market, etc.
If Simplified Technical English is applied correctly it will greatly decrease misunderstandings for people whose native language is not English. This automatically makes translating easier (and cheaper) and language comprehension better.
The usage of the ‘standard’ data set of words throughout each document decreases doubt and makes explanations more clear.
When working with a standard set of words, the creation of technical documents becomes more efficient, which has a positive effect on the time-to-market cycle.
Accurate documentation aids quality assurance, quality control and is future-proof (because in this case legacy documentation is created based on a set of standards).
Furthermore, in the era of AI, Simplified Technical English greatly enhances machine ability to translate documents.
To sum up:
- Lesser misunderstandings
- More efficient for translations
- Less doubt around complex translations
- Makes machine-translations near-flawless
- Improved time-to-market
- Faster and cheaper translations
Examples of Simplified English document
The example below is directly taken from the ASD-STE100 dictionary and shows how approved words are presented in UpperCase.
Who uses the Simplified Technical English rules?
Nowadays nearly all industries work with STE in some form or another (if it were up to us ASD-STE100 of course).
STE was developed by the aerospace industry and quickly adopted by manufacturing, defense, steel, and telecom, as well as other industries.
It’s good to know that STE was never meant to become a writing standard. However, due to the success of the STE guide, many industries adopted its rules and guidelines.
Simplified Technical English Training
As mentioned above, checker software and tools greatly help content authors with writing compliant documentation.
However, it’s not advisable to completely rely on software when it comes to STE standards and content creation.
We at Etteplan offer in-depth Simplified Technical English training and courses to help standardize your organization’s specific terminology. Traineeships are held onsite and online and are part of a HyperSTE implementation, which are essentially writing courses.
We have over 20 years of hands-on experience and trained well over 3000 writers who are now creating manuals and documentation better and faster.
Our two-day training courses consist of:
- Strategy. Develop a roadmap with clear goals. Save time using HyperSTE and setup quality assurance guidelines.
- Courses. How to write clear and concise.
- Dictionary. Create and standardize the industry and company-specific terms using data mining techniques, statistical analysis, and linguistics.
Read more about Simplified Technical English training and view references.
History of Simplified Technical English
As mentioned, the aerospace industry pioneered the standardization of technical document creation, starting in the ’80s.
The incentive was the translation of maintenance manuals to other languages for local mechanics. Aerospace is an inherently complex industry and the problem was barely readable manuals.
This not only caused problems for situations that required technical knowledge but also had a negative effect on the flow of new engineers wanting to enter the industry.
Something had to be done and the result was the standardization of documentation. The project was conveniently called ‘ AECMA Simplified English Guide’ and launched in 1983, later renamed to ASD Simplified Technical English and ASD-STE100.
The same guidelines still apply today, however, they were changed and improved where necessary.