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What defines high-quality technical documentation?

The need for clarity in communication

In today’s business, the use of clear and consistent writing has become a necessity: English has become the main language used in technical documentation throughout the world, but can be difficult to understand due to its many forms and complexity: complex sentence structures, multiple meanings and synonyms can result in confusion.

In addition, many readers’ command of English can fall below the level of those who created the documentation (technical writers and engineers), this especially applies to non-native English speakers.

Negative effects include:

  • Safety risks and damage
  • Liability claims
  • High localization/translation costs
  • Incorrect translations
  • Ineffective customer service
  • Higher training support costs
  • Bad consumer experience due to confusion and frustration
  • Unanticipated costs as a result of miscommunication, such as recall costs

Controlled Language standardizes vocabulary and style, aiming to improve consistency, eliminate ambiguity and reduce complexity. Controlled English also provides objective criteria for quality control.

The basic principles of Controlled English are a controlled vocabulary and a set of grammatical rules.

The main characteristics of controlled authoring include:

  • Simplified grammar and style rules
  • A limited set of approved words with restricted meanings
  • A thesaurus of unapproved terms and suggested alternatives
  • Guidelines for adding new technical words to the approved vocabulary

Furthermore, one is required to:

  • Use active voice
  • Use articles wherever possible
  • Use simple verb tenses
  • Use language and terminology consistently
  • Avoid lengthy compound words
  • Use relatively short sentences

Simplified Technical English (STE), or Standardized English, is a controlled language originally developed for the aerospace and defense industries, where it is mandated and also known as ASD-STE100. However, many companies outside aerospace and defense industries are using the Simplified Technical English specification as a basis for their own controlled authoring needs.

How to implement?

Etteplan has been offerering controlled language implementation services for more than 20 years, assisting many companies in a variety of industries achieve cost savings and compliance.

Contact us today to see how we can help you save cost, become more efficient and increase the value of your technical documentation with controlled authoring.