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How to Fix The Technobabble Snafu

 

The Technobabble Snafu

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Some Assembly Required

“STE was developed to help the readers of English-language documentation understand what they read, particularly when these readers are non-native English speakers.” – ASD-STE100

Your product or user manual may need to have the words Some Assembly Required in it.  Since those words often make readers cringe, it would be a pleasant surprise if  the manual were written in Simplified Technical English that virtually anyone can understand. 

Products made in the Republic of SAR (Some Assembly Required) can make the reader afraid of the assembly experience to come.  They are already wondering if they should have gotten an engineering degree so that they could put the product together.  They may also be wondering why they wanted it in the first place.  

When you begin to write your manual, you have a choice:  You can write it for those that do have an engineering degree or one in computer science or you can write your manual in STE, Simplified Technical English.  

It sounds easy but it is not.  But if you don’t consider the STE approach, you may end up with a technobabble snafu on your hands with a rebelling audience that is confused and angry.

Simplified Technical English Might Be the Answer

Creating an STE-compliant document is easy:  Follow the STE writing rules. This sounds simple but it is harder than it looks.  If it were not, there would be many more documents written in this style  The Simplified Technical English Bible is the ASD-STE100, Issue 8, STE Writing Rules.

Using technical jargon is not the issue.  The goal is to write clear, unambiguous text that contains the technical jargon.

 

“Complex technical instructions can be misunderstood and misunderstandings can lead to accidents. STE makes technical texts easy to understand by all readers

Home » Simplified Technical English

Downloads

ASD-STE100, Issue 8

This free download is the full text of the ASD-STE100, Issue 8, International Specification for the Preparation of Technical Documentation in a Controlled Language

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Leveraging STE

Case study of a Simplified Technical English (STE) conversion in the Engineering sector. The conversion was intended to remove the archaic wording and make the text easier to translate and understand. The transformation resulted in reduced cost and better translations.

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Technical Manual Content and Delivery – Our Services

Technology has changed and with it the content, design and delivery of technical documentation has changed.    

Technical Manual Content

  • Customer-Centric Technical Content might include online wikis, knowledge bases, training manuals, user guides, release notes, installation manuals, or repair manuals.
  • Organizational Technical Content might include standard work procedures manuals, employee handbooks, job descriptions, work instructions, installation manuals, or a human machine interface (HMI) on equipment.
  • Marketing Technical Content might include product-based information such as product brochures or videos, white papers, business case studies, infographics, or use cases.
  • IT Technical Content might include technical specifications of a product, glossaries, software development , software guidance, training manuals, or process documentation

 

Technical Information Delivery

 

 


Digitalization and globalization have resulted in a paradigm shift in how technical documentation is created, how it is written and how it is delivered.   

As technology has become available to a broad cross-section of the population, creating and delivering easily-understood technical content is a requirement.  It also must be delivered in many different languages.  While not in the immediate future, the PDF may become obsolete in favor of electronic delivery.  For now, however, both are still used extensively.  

Digital information delivery–in particular mobile–is becoming a standard method for relaying information.  Innovative solutions for doing this are being created all the time and are more focused on user experience than ever before.

 


 

Rule 1.1:  Use This Not That

Rule 1.1

Simplified Technical English (STE) has a controlled general dictionary (part 2) that gives you the words most frequently used in technical writing.

You can also use words that are not in the dictionary if you can include them in the specified categories of technical names and technical verbs.

The dictionary also gives a selection of unapproved words, with examples that show how to use alternative words.

Which Words Can You Use?

You can use words that are:

  • Approved in the dictionary
  • Technical names
  • Technical verbs.

Examples:
The word “use” is an approved word in the dictionary.
The word “engine” is a technical name.
The word “ream” is a technical verb.

 

What is ASD-STE100?

ASD-STE100

ASD SIMPLIFIED TECHNICAL ENGLISH
SPECIFICATION ASD-STE100
EUROPEAN UNION TRADE MARK NO. 017966390
INTERNATIONAL SPECIFICATION FOR THE PREPARATION OF TECHNICAL DOCUMENTATION IN A CONTROLLED LANGUAGE

According to the ASD-STE100 website, English is the international language of science, technology and human relations. It is also the language of the aerospace and defense industry. However, it is not often the native language of the readers of technical documentation. Many readers have a limited knowledge of English. Complex sentence structure and the large number of meanings and synonyms that many English words have can cause confusion.

On June 30, 1983, in Amsterdam, the AECMA Simplified English Working Group was founded and the AECMA Simplified English project started.

The product of this effort was the AECMA Simplified English Guide (first release in 1986) which, in 2005, became the ASD Simplified Technical English Specification, ASD-STE100.

The success of STE is such that other industries use it beyond its original intended purpose of aerospace maintenance documentation. Interest in STE has also increased dramatically in the areas of language services, professional translation and interpreting, as well as in the academic world.

LEARN MORE HERE

What Are Simplified Technical English Rules?

STE has two parts: a set of writing rules (part 1) and a controlled dictionary (part 2). The writing rules cover aspects of grammar and style. The dictionary gives the general words that a writer can use.

 

Writing Rules

STE addresses difficulties in English comprehension related to complex sentence structures, confusing word forms, and ambiguous vocabulary. 

The Writing Rules differentiate between two types of topics: procedure and description. The Writing Rules also specify restrictions on grammar and style usage. For example, they require writers to:

 

  • Restrict the length of noun clusters to no more than three words
  • Restrict sentence length to no more than 20 words (procedural sentences) or 25 words (descriptive sentences)
  • Restrict paragraphs to no more than 6 sentences (in descriptive text)
  • Avoid slang and jargon while allowing for specific terminology
  • Make instructions as specific as possible
  • Use articles such as “a/an” and “the” wherever possible
  • Use simple verb tenses (past, present, and future)
  • Use active voice
  • Do not use present participles or gerunds (unless part of a Technical Name)
  • Write sequential steps as separate sentences
  • Start a safety instruction (a warning or a caution) with a clear and simple command or condition.

 

Controlled Dictionary

STE has a controlled general dictionary that gives the words that are most frequently used in technical writing.

The approved words were selected because they were simple and easy to recognize. In general, each word has only one meaning and functions as only one part of speech. For example, “to fall” has the approved meaning of “to move down by the force of gravity,” and not “to decrease”. 

When there are several words in English for the same thing (synonyms), STE permits one of these synonyms to the exclusion of the others. For example, STE uses “start” instead of “begin”, “commence”, “initiate”, or “originate”. STE approved meanings and spelling are based on American English (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary).

In addition to its general dictionary, STE permits the use of company-specific or project-oriented technical words (referred to in STE as technical names and technical verbs). These words are related to the categories listed in the respective rules.

Basically, writers can use the approved words in the dictionary as a core vocabulary. But they can also use terms that are usual in their companies or industries and applicable to their projects and products.

 

A key goal in translation is interpreting the author’s intention. Translating a text to or from STE is made easier by reducing sentences to their core intended meaning. This allows STE to be used in the translation of documents into multiple languages at one time, giving a framework of sentence structure that can be more easily altered than standard English to suit the sentence syntax and structure in other languages.

 

 

Why Work With Us?

We are creative, believers in critical thought.  Our layouts are sophisticated and appropriate, effective.  Our work is informative and engaging.  We speak simplified technical English.  Let our technical writing services save you time, money, revisions and failed presentations.

GET IN TOUCH

Do You Need STE Clarity?  Let’s Talk

 

 

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WISP Written Information Security Plan

Why You Need a WISP

“…The Task Force notes that the cyber threat to U.S. critical infrastructure is outpacing efforts to reduce pervasive vulnerabilities, so that for the next decade at least the United States must lean significantly on deterrence to address the cyber threat posed by the most capable U.S. adversaries. It is clear that a more proactive and systematic approach to U.S. cyber deterrence is urgently needed…”     -Task Force on Cyber Deterrence [DSB 2017], the Defense Science Board (DSB)

What Is a WISP?

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF)-based Written Information Security Program (WISP) is a set of cyber security policies and standards that are suited for smaller organizations or those governed by NIST 800-53.

Technically, WISPs are geared for small businesses but we have expanded our offering to include those governed by NIST 800-53.

Download a sample, editable WISP here.

 

Are You Required to Have a WISP?

Several industries and organizations are governed by cybersecurity regulations that require a WISP. If your organization is bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), then it is required to have a WISP as well. The same is true for financial service organizations that fall under the New York Cyber Security Regulation known as 23 NYCRR 500. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) developed Service Organization Controls to manage data securely with AICPA TSC 2017 SOC 2 which also requires a WISP as does the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework. 

 


We create custom State- and NIST-compliant WISP Written Information Security Plans for business of all sizes.   This document protects you and it protects your customers or clients or patients.  These affordable documents include standalone versions of all policies and procedures that are referenced in your WISP.  For example, your WISP access control policy would be provided also as a separate document that you can use in other documents such as training manuals or employee handbooks or as standard operating procedures.

GET IN TOUCH

 


Do You Live in One of These States?

If you live in one of these States, you are required to have a WISP that conforms to State requirements:  Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, District of Columbia.

 

No One is Exempt

Cybersecurity, information security, information security policy, business continuity plan, WISP, Written Information Security Program, incident response plan, cybersecurity policy , cybersecurity workbook, SBA, Small Business Administration, small business, hacktivists, bad actors, CISO, Chief Information Security Officer, Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, CSF, NIST, containment, recovery, Business Continuity Plan, National Institute of Standards and Technology According to the DBIR Verizon 2021 Data Report: The first thing we noticed while analyzing the data by organizational size this year was that the gap between the two with regard to the number of breaches, has become much less pronounced. Last year, small organizations accounted for less than half the number of breaches that large organizations showed.  Unlike most political parties, this year these two are less far apart with 307 breaches in large and 263 breaches in small organizations.

Last year, small organizations were greatly troubled by Web Applications, Everything Else and Miscellaneous Errors. The changes in our patterns account for a good bit of what we see this year in small organizations, since the Everything Else pattern was recalibrated, and the attacks that remain are largely Hacking and Malware, thus fitting into the System Intrusion pattern. In contrast, large organizations saw a fair amount of actual change. The top three last year were Everything Else, Crimeware and Privilege Misuse. The pattern recalibration means that most of the Crimeware type events went into System Intrusion and Basic Web Application Attacks, but Privilege Misuse is not a pattern that saw any substantial degree of change. Therefore, this is an indication that we saw fewer Internal actors doing naughty things with their employer’s data.


Why Our WISP?

Our custom NIST-based WISP Written Information Security Plans identify the policies and procedures for protecting your company’s confidential data, assessing how it’s being protected, and identifying who is ensuring it’s protected.

This WISP document enables you to proactively plans for the “what ifs” and is fundamental to your organization’s security.  It can be the basis for risk management measures.  It also enables you to be compliant with State requirements, where necessary.

Whether they are included as part of the WISP or simply referred to as part of an abbreviated description, we provide complete policies and procedures referenced in the WISP.  See a full list of these policies here.  We also offer our compliance documentation in two formats:  The first is focused on the what (NIST policies) and the other is focused on how (company-specific policies based on NIST standards).  See samples of the two approaches below.
  

And, of course, they are affordable with WISP pricing that starts at $1,500.

Consultations are free

GET IN TOUCH

 


WISP Format Choices

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Writing and implementing a WISP requires assessing company business processes, an understanding of the laws and regulations that apply to the those processes, identifying potential information security gaps and weaknesses, finding the right balance between business practices and security, and educating end users about the policy once it is approved by company management.

 

NIST Framework 

This WISP version is mapped to NIST standards and the terminology.

IR-4(2): INCIDENT HANDLING/DYNAMIC RECONFIGURATION
Control Objective: Include organization-defined types of dynamic reconfiguration for organization-defined system components as part of the incident response capability.

Standard: Where technically feasible and justified by a valid business case, ACME must implement automated mechanisms to enable dynamic reconfiguration of information systems as part of incident response remediation actions.

Guidelines: Dynamic reconfiguration includes changes to router rules, access control lists, intrusion detection or prevention system parameters and filter rules for guards or firewalls. Organizations may perform dynamic reconfiguration of systems to stop attacks, misdirect attackers and isolate components of systems, thus limiting the extent of the damage from breaches or compromises.

Organizations include specific time frames for achieving the reconfiguration of systems in the definition of the reconfiguration capability, considering the potential need for rapid response to effectively address cyber threats.

 

Standard Policy Framework

This WISP version uses narrative, company-specific policies. 

RISK ASSSESSMENT
The Program Coordinator shall conduct a risk assessment to identify reasonably foreseeable internal and external risks to the security, confidentiality and integrity of customer information that could result in its unauthorized disclosure, misuse, alteration, destruction or other compromise, and assess the sufficiency of any safeguards in place to control these risks. The risk assessment shall cover all relevant areas of the Dealership’s operations. At a minimum, the risk assessment shall cover the following:

• Employee training and management;
• Information systems, including network and software design, as well as information processing, storage, transmission and disposal; and
• Detecting, preventing and responding to attacks, intrusions or other systems failures.

Once the Program Coordinator has identified the reasonably foreseeable risks, the Program Coordinator will determine whether current policies and procedures in these areas sufficiently mitigate the potential risks identified. If not, the Program Coordinator shall design new policies and procedures that meet the objectives of the Program. Final policies and procedures that meet the objectives of the Program will be part of the Program.

States That Require WISPs

Alabama: 2018 SB 318

Arkansas: Ark. Code § 4-110-104(b)

California: Calif. Civil Code § 1798.91.04

Colorado: Colo. Rev. Stat. § 6-1-713 to -713.5

Connecticut: Conn. Gen. Stat. § 38a-999b, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 4e-70

Delaware: Del. Code § 12B-100

Florida: Fla. Stat. § 501.171(2)

Illinois: 815 ILCS 530/45

Indiana: Ind. Code § 24-4.9-3-3..5(c)

Kansas: K.S. § 50-6,139b

Louisiana: La. Rev. Stat. § 3074 (2018 SB 361)

Maryland: Md. Code Com Law §§ 14-3501 to -3503

Massachusetts: Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 93H § 2(a)

Minnesota: Minn. Stat. § 325M.05

Nebraska: Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 87-801-807 (2018 L.B. 757)

Nevada: Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 603A.210, 603A.215(2)

New Mexico: N.M. Stat. § 57-12C-4 to -5

New York: New York Gen. Bus. Law § 899-BB

Ohio: Ohio Rev. Stat. § 1354.01 to 1354.05 (2018 S.B. 220)

Oregon: Or. Rev. Stat § 646A.622

Rhode Island: R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-49.3-2

South Carolina: S.C. Code § 38-99-10 to -100. (2018 HB 4655)

Texas: Tex. Bus. & Com. Code § 521.052

Utah: Utah Code §§ 13-44-101, -201, 301

Vermont: 9 V.S.A § 2446-2447 (2018 HB 764)

District of Columbia: 2020 B 215

NIST Special Publication 800-53 Revision 5 Full Text

This free download is the full text of the NIST Revision 5, September 2020. This publication provides a catalog of security and privacy controls for information systems and organizations to protect organizational operations and assets, individuals, other organizations, and the Nation from a diverse set of threats and risks, including hostile attacks, human errors, natural disasters, structural failures, foreign intelligence entities, and privacy risks. 

 

  NIST Special Publication 800-53 Revision 5

What Are the Most Common WISP Elements?

Every WISP is different–some are less comprehensive and some are more so depending on the situation.  In general, however, WISPs contain the following elements:

 

  • Designation of the employee or employees responsible for the security program
  • Identification and assessment of security risks
  • Policies for storage of data, as well as access and transportation of personal information
  • Disciplinary measures imposed on WISP violators
  • Limiting access by/to terminated employees
  • Managing the security practices of third-party vendors and contractors
  • Methods of restricting physical and digital access to records
  • Monitoring and reviewing the scope and effectiveness of the WISP
  • Documentation of data security incidents and responses

 

 

Why Work With Us?

We are creative, believers in critical thought.  Our layouts are sophisticated and appropriate, effective.  Our work is due diligent, informative and engaging.  Let our technical writing services save you time, money, revisions and failed presentations.

Consultations are free

GET IN TOUCH

 

 

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 The Technical Manual:  Instructions for Life or for a Video Game? 

 

Deconstructing the Technical Manual:  What Is It?

A technical manual rarely provides guidance on how you should live your life. It does not tell you how to raise your kids but can help you understand their video console game.  Some technical manuals do this successfully, some don’t.  Definitions of a technical manual are as varied as the types of technical manuals.

technical manual

[′tek·nə·kəl ‚man·yə·wəl]

publication containing detailed information on technical procedures, including instructions on the operation, handling, maintenance, and repair of equipment. – McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Technical manuals are written for end users who did not code or create the product or process.  While they might have some knowledge of how the product or process works, they need more detailed information.  This could be in the form of a product brochure or detailed operating instructions or repair procedures.  Most of this audience simply wants more information on topics such as the product, how to install or operate it or how to repair it.

Over time, the definition of a technical manual has broadened to include many aspects of technical documentation.  It has the simple purpose of making it simple for the end-user to understand the technicality of using a product or service. Technical manuals contain instructions for installation, use, maintenance, and steps for effective deployment of equipment.

Avoiding the Technobabble Snafu

Technical Manual Sample

 

 

 

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Some Assembly Required

Your product or user manual may need to have the words Some Assembly Required in it.  Since those words often make readers cringe, it would be a pleasant surprise if  the manual were written in Simplified Technical English that virtually anyone can understand. 

Products made in the Republic of SAR (Some Assembly Required) can make the reader afraid of the assembly experience to come.  They are already wondering if they should have gotten an engineering degree so that they could put the product together.  They may also be wondering why they wanted it in the first place.  

When you begin to write your manual, you have a choice:  You can write it for those that do have an engineering degree or one in computer science or you can write your manual so it is easily understood by your intended audience.  

Technical manuals are written for end users who did not code or create the product or process.  While they might have some knowledge of how the product or process works, they need more detailed information.  This could be in the form of a product brochure or detailed operating instructions or repair procedures.  Most of this audience simply wants more information on topics such as the product, how to install or operate it or how to maintain and repair it.  The technobabble snafu can be avoided when technical documentation is clear, presented in engaging form and unambiguous enough to be thoroughly understood by anyone in the target audience.

When they were first created, technical manuals were in fact way too technical for the common user to comprehend.

The Technical Manual Then (1949) and Now (2022)


Binac Manual

Technical Manuals 1949 and 2022

In 1949, the first technical technical manual was published by Joseph Chapline, who wrote a user manual for the computer he developed, the BINAC, (Operating and Maintenance Manual for the BINAC). Style and content are shown in the image at left.  Technical manual content and delivery technology, not even imagined in 1949, can now be part of an end-user experience.  

AR Manual

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Above is an image from an augmented reality technical manual.   This method involves overlaying the text and images with augmented reality technology.

 

 

 

 

Technical Manual Content and Delivery

Technology has changed and with it the content, design and delivery of technical documentation has changed.   

Technical Manual Content

  • Customer-Centric Technical Content might include online wikis, knowledge bases, training manuals, user guides, release notes, installation manuals, or repair manuals.
  • Organizational Technical Content might include standard work procedures manuals, employee handbooks, job descriptions, work instructions, installation manuals, or a human machine interface (HMI) on equipment.
  • Marketing Technical Content might include product-based information such as product brochures or videos, white papers, business case studies, infographics, or use cases.
  • IT Technical Content might include technical specifications of a product, glossaries, software development , software guidance, training manuals, or process documentation

 

Technical Information Delivery

 

 


Digitalization and globalization have resulted in a paradigm shift in how technical documentation is created, how it is written and how it is delivered.   

As technology has become available to a broad cross-section of the population, creating and delivering easily-understood technical content is a requirement.  It also must be delivered in many different languages.  While not in the immediate future, the PDF may become obsolete in favor of electronic delivery.  For now, however, both are still used extensively.  

Digital information delivery–in particular mobile–is becoming a standard method for relaying information.  Innovative solutions for doing this are being created all the time and are more focused on user experience than ever before.

 


 

The Technical Manual in its Simplest Form


A Wordless Manual

A Successful Technical Manual: the IKEA Billy Bookcase Assembly Manual

If it takes an advanced degree to read it, then it must be meaningful.   Right?  Not necessarily.  Einstein suggested that:

“If you cannot explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough.”  

You cannot get much simpler than a wordless manual and one of the most effective set of technical manuals is in fact wordless:  the IKEA assembly manuals.   There are few complaints that IKEA’s technical manuals are not easily understood or that furniture cannot be assembled when they are used. 

 While there are not many types of manuals that lend themselves to wordless instruction, it does work for IKEA.

Technical Manual Considerations

Whether the technical manual is a human machine interface (HMI) on a CNC machine or the installation instructions for a garbage disposal, there are certain basic planning and content elements that are common to all.  

 

Planning Considerations

Topic-based authoring is a concept well worth considering for development of technical documentation.  This approach is particularly suited to technical manuals.  The alternative, a collaborative approach, works well in most situations.  It just so happens that topic-based authoring enables writers of technical material to create reusable, flexible information modules cost-effectively.  

 

Select Pre-Development Questions
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the delivery method electronic or print?
  • Will the development approach be collaborative or topic-based authoring?
  • Where is the information about the product, service or process located?
  • Who will be the subject matter expert–the writer or a staff member or both?
  • What is the structure–table of contents?
  • What graphics will be used?
  • How will the contents be laid out?
  • What will be the style and design?

Authoring Considerations

If you understand thoroughly what you are writing about, you will be able to present it in clear, concise, unambiguous terms to readers.

Topic-Based Authoring
This is a modular approach to content creation which supports content reuse, content management, and the dynamic assembly of personalized information.

At a high level, topic-based authoring is simple. Rather than writing a “book” as one long document, you write a bunch of small chunks of information – “topics” – that can be strung together to create that “book”.  – Neil Perlin

Collaborative Authoring
Collaborative authoring is a method of creating content with the involvement of several authors. It is a flexible process where content can be created more quickly and with better quality.  Technical writers can create content simultaneously: each tech writer is working on certain topics. Technical writers can also create content in a certain sequence. 

 

 

Technical Manual Sample

Case study sample of a Simplified Technical English (STE) conversion intended to remove the archaic wording and make the text easier to translate and understand. The transformation resulted in reduced cost and better translations.

 

 

 

 

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The Simplicity of an Effective Technical Manual

“Complex technical instructions can be misunderstood and misunderstandings can lead to accidents. STE makes technical texts easy to understand by all readers

Simplified Technical English Transformation

Simplicity is arguably one of the most desirable traits of an effective technical manual.  Simplified Technical English may be what you need if your document has a wide, diverse audience.  

Creating Technical Manuals in Simplified Technical English (STE)

Einstein would have liked STE and the STE Writing Rules. He knew that clarity is often sacrificed for complexity.   But he also knew that there is a limit to how far things can be simplified.  STE Writing Rules show how to use those rules to make what we write as simple as possible but no simpler. 

If it takes an advanced degree to read it, then it must be meaningful.   Right?  Not necessarily.  Einstein suggested:

“If you cannot explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough.”

Einstein could not have anticipated the technological innovation or medical advancements or discoveries in physics that have occurred in the last century.  Technical documentation of QuickBooks’ coding in C++ will likely be important information for a programmer.  But a technical description of how to use QuickBooks to generate a profit and loss statement is likely to be much more important to an end user who may have no idea what C++ is or that it is a programming language.

 

 

Why Work With Us?

We are creative, believers in critical thought.  Our technical documentation layouts are sophisticated and appropriate, effective.  Our work is informative and engaging.  We become subject matter expert partners: our technical writing services save you time, money, revisions and failed presentations.

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STE Writing Rules and Einstein

 

The Direct Route…

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“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” – Albert Einstein

STE Writing Rules and Einstein Simplicity

Einstein would have liked STE and the STE Writing Rules. He knew that clarity is often sacrificed for complexity.   But he also knew that there is a limit to how far things can be simplified.  Our blog series on the STE Writing Rules will be on how to use those rules to make what we write as simple as possible but no simpler. 

If it takes an advanced degree to read it, then it must be meaningful.   Right?  Not necessarily.  Einstein also suggested that:

“If you cannot explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough.”

Einstein could not have anticipated the technological innovation or medical advancements or discoveries in physics that have occurred in the last century.  While terms such as prenucleation can be mentioned in sentences that are easily understood, the simple fact is that the explanation of a term like that is as complex as the word itself.

 

STE Writing Rules  and Cleartext

The STE Writing Rules are excellent tools to create clear, unambiguous text:  Cleartext.  But sometimes clear, unambiguous text is still too complex for everyone to understand.   

That is why STE Writing Rules are used with dictionaries.  These dictionaries include technical terms that are not in the basic  word dictionary.

But not all writing is that technical and does lend itself to Einstein’s theory of simplicity.  A product user manual is a good example.  Some Assembly Required makes many readers afraid of the assembly experience to come.  They are already wondering if they should have gotten an engineering degree so that they could put the product together.  They may also be wondering why they wanted it in the first place. 

The Genius of Simplicity

 

Genius is making complex ideas simple, not making simple ideas complex.” – Albert Einstein

It sounds easy but it is not.  So, do you have to be a genius to write clearly?  If you do simplify what you have to say, will you sound less intelligent?  

 

Simplicity and the Successful Translation

This is a translation into STE of a Code Book paragraph that is said to be Very Difficult on the Flesch Reading Scale.  This is an excellent example of something that can be simplified only so far.  But archaic jargon such as thereof or convoluted sentences can be revised and the presentation itself simplified.  Mandatory Appendix V cannot be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence; thereof can be eliminated.  Sometimes the sentence structures appear confusing by intention–the intention being to reduce the number of people that can understand them.

Original

The rules in this Part PR-1 are applicable to boilers and component parts thereof that are fabricated by riveting. These rules shall be used in conjunction with the general requirements in the applicable Parts of this Section and Mandatory Appendix V that pertain to the type of boiler under consideration.

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Revision in STE

 

The rules in PR-1 are applicable to riveted boilers and parts.  These rules are applied with the parts of this Section and Mandatory Appendix V for riveted boilers.

 

 

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“Complex technical instructions can be misunderstood and misunderstandings can lead to accidents. STE makes technical texts easy to understand by all readers

Simplified Technical English Transformation

Simplified Technical English may be what you need if your document has a wide, diverse audience.  

 

Using technical jargon is not the issue.  Writing clear, unambiguous text that contains technical jargon is the goal.

 
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Sample STE Writing Rule

Rule 1.1

Simplified Technical English (STE) has a controlled general dictionary (part 2) that gives you the words most frequently used in technical writing.

You can also use words that are not in the dictionary if you can include them in the specified categories of technical names and technical verbs.

The dictionary also gives a selection of unapproved words, with examples that show how to use alternative words.

Which Words Can You Use?

You can use words that are:

  • Approved in the dictionary
  • Technical names
  • Technical verbs.

Examples:
The word “use” is an approved word in the dictionary.
The word “engine” is a technical name.
The word “ream” is a technical verb.

 

 

 

ASD-STE100, Simplified Technical English Full Text

This free download is the full text of the ASD-STE100, Issue 7, January 2017, International Specification for the Preparation of Technical Documentation in a Controlled Language

 

ASD-STE100 Download

 

 

 

What Are Simplified Technical English Rules?

STE has two parts: a set of writing rules (part 1) and a controlled dictionary (part 2). The writing rules cover aspects of grammar and style. The dictionary gives the general words that a writer can use.

 

Writing Rules

STE addresses difficulties in English comprehension related to complex sentence structures, confusing word forms, and ambiguous vocabulary. 

The Writing Rules differentiate between two types of topics: procedure and description. The STE Writing Rules also specify restrictions on grammar and style usage. For example, they require writers to:

 

  • Restrict the length of noun clusters to no more than three words
  • Restrict sentence length to no more than 20 words
  • Restrict paragraphs to no more than 6 sentences 
  • Avoid slang and jargon while allowing for specific terminology
  • Make instructions as specific as possible
  • Use articles such as “a/an” and “the” wherever possible
  • Use simple verb tenses
  • Use active voice
  • Write sequential steps as separate sentences
  • Start a safety instruction (a warning or a caution) with a clear and simple command or condition.

 

Controlled Dictionary

STE has a controlled general dictionary that gives the words that are most frequently used in technical writing.

The approved words were selected because they were simple and easy to recognize. In general, each word has only one meaning and functions as only one part of speech. For example, “to fall” has the approved meaning of “to move down by the force of gravity,” and not “to decrease”. 

When there are several words in English for the same thing (synonyms), STE permits one of these synonyms to the exclusion of the others. For example, STE uses “start” instead of “begin”, “commence”, “initiate”, or “originate”. STE approved meanings and spelling are based on American English (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary).

In addition to its general dictionary, STE permits the use of company-specific or project-oriented technical words (referred to in STE as technical names and technical verbs). These words are related to the categories listed in the respective rules.

Basically, writers can use the approved words in the dictionary as a core vocabulary. But they can also use terms that are usual in their companies or industries and applicable to their projects and products.

 

A key goal in translation is interpreting the author’s intention. Translating a text to or from STE is made easier by reducing sentences to their core intended meaning. This allows STE to be used in the translation of documents into multiple languages at one time, giving a framework of sentence structure that can be more easily altered than standard English to suit the sentence syntax and structure in other languages.

What is ASD-STE100?

ASD-STE100

ASD SIMPLIFIED TECHNICAL ENGLISH
SPECIFICATION ASD-STE100
EUROPEAN UNION TRADE MARK NO. 017966390
INTERNATIONAL SPECIFICATION FOR THE PREPARATION OF TECHNICAL DOCUMENTATION IN A CONTROLLED LANGUAGE

According to the ASD-STE100 website, English is the international language of science, technology and human relations. It is also the language of the aerospace and defense industry. However, it is not often the native language of the readers of technical documentation. Many readers have a limited knowledge of English. Complex sentence structure and the large number of meanings and synonyms that many English words have can cause confusion.

On June 30, 1983, in Amsterdam, the AECMA Simplified English Working Group was founded and the AECMA Simplified English project started.

The product of this effort was the AECMA Simplified English Guide (first release in 1986) which, in 2005, became the ASD Simplified Technical English Specification, ASD-STE100.

The success of STE is such that other industries use it beyond its original intended purpose of aerospace maintenance documentation. Interest in STE has also increased dramatically in the areas of language services, professional translation and interpreting, as well as in the academic world.

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Would you like more information about STE?

Contact us to learn more about Simplified Technical English or to discuss a project.

The objective of Simplified Technical English is clear, unambiguous writing. Developed primarily for non-native English speakers, it is also known to improve the readability of maintenance text for native speakers. ASD Simplified Technical English does not attempt to define English grammar or prescribe correct English. It does attempt to limit the range of English, and many of its rules are recommendations found in technical writing textbooks.  – Boeing, STE Originator

STE Writing Rules, Section 1 - Words, Rule 1.3, approved words, Simplified Technical English, Writing for Results, technicalwritingexpert.com
Updated November 15, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

STE Rule 1.3

 

What Is Rule 1.3?

Use this, not that, STE Approved Words and Not Approved Words, Rule 1.3, technicalwritingexperts.com

Rule 1.3 is important yet it is not exceptional.  It is like many others in  Section 1 of the STE Writing Rules.  But it is a good example of how the rules work.  While the rule sounds straightforward enough, memorizing it is sometimes easier than following it.

Rule 1.3:  Use This, Not That

Keep to the approved meaning of a word in the Dictionary. Do not use the word with any other meaning.
Example

“Follow” means “come after”. It does not mean “obey”
Non-STE: Follow the safety instructions.
STE: Obey the safety instructions.

But you can write

STE: Follow the green lights to the nearest staircase.

STE: Do the instructions that follow:

So How Do You Follow Rule 1.3?

 

 

Rule 1.3 Sample Use

Original – Non STE

The synthetic lubricating oil used in this engine contains additives which, if allowed to come into contact with the skin for prolonged periods, can be toxic through absorption.

 

Revision – STE Procedural Compliant

The oil is poisonous. Do not get the engine oil on your skin.  It can go through your skin and into your body.

Find out if we can help you:  Contact us.  If you don’t ask, we can’t help you.

 

Analysis

The synthetic lubricating oil used in this engine contains additives which, if allowed to come into contact with the skin for prolonged periods, can be toxic through absorption.

STE Writing Rules, Section 1 - Words, Rule 1.3, approved words, Simplified Technical English, ASD

Why Use the STE Writing Rules?

No Technobabble

Quite simply, STE eliminates Technobabble.

STE addresses difficulties in English comprehension related to complex sentence structures, confusing word forms, and ambiguous vocabulary. 

Even the best product is only as good as its documentation and technical data, which allow the customer to use it safely and effectively. Documentation is a vital and integral part of your product.

Most crucially, the documentation needs to do its part to ensure the safe and correct use of the product by providing complete, accurate and effective information. Simplified Technical English (STE) can help you meet documentation compliance requirements, and can also increase the efficiency and productivity of your employees.

 

 

Benefits of Using STE
  • ASD-STE100, S1000D and ATA iSpec 2200

  • Reduce ambiguity

  • Improve the clarity of technical writing, especially procedural writing

  • Improve comprehension for people whose first language is not English

  • Make human translation easier, faster, and more cost effective

  • Facilitate computer-assisted translation and machine translation

  • Improve reliability and safety by reducing the probability of errors in maintenance and assembly.

In Plain English

Public Law 111–274
111th Congress

Plain Writing Act of 2010

Plain Writing Act of 2010, Public Law 111-274, STE Writing Rules, George Orwell Six Writing Rules, Section 1 - Words, Rule 1.3, approved words, Simplified Technical English, ASD, user manual, product manual

 
The Act

To enhance citizen access to Government information and services by establishing that Government documents issued to the public must be written clearly, and for other purposes.

 

Purpose

The purpose of this Act was to improve the effectiveness and accountability of Federal agencies to the public by promoting clear Government communication that the public can understand and
use.

Even the federal government has made an attempt to simplify the English used in documents.  In an effort to produce documentation that was unambiguous and could be clearly understood by readers, the government enacted the Plain Writing Act of 2010.  This legislation required federal agencies to use plain writing in every covered document that the agency issues or substantially revises.

The Plain Writing Act defines plain language as:

 

Writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience.

Language that is plain to one set of readers may not be plain to others. Material is in plain language if your audience can:

 

  • Find what they need
  • Understand what they find the first time they read or hear it
  • Use what they find to meet their need.

The government has developed templateschecklists, and in-depth writing guidelines to help writers create communications in plain language.

 

PLAINLANGUAGE.GOV

What Are Simplified Technical English Rules?

STE has two parts: a set of writing rules (part 1) and a controlled dictionary (part 2). The writing rules cover aspects of grammar and style. The dictionary gives the general words that a writer can use.

 

Writing Rules

The Writing Rules differentiate between two types of topics: procedure and description. The Writing Rules also specify restrictions on grammar and style usage. For example, they require writers to:

 

  • Restrict the length of noun clusters to no more than three words
  • Restrict sentence length to no more than 20 words (procedural sentences) or 25 words (descriptive sentences)
  • Restrict paragraphs to no more than 6 sentences (in descriptive text)
  • Avoid slang and jargon while allowing for specific terminology
  • Make instructions as specific as possible
  • Use articles such as “a/an” and “the” wherever possible
  • Use simple verb tenses (past, present, and future)
  • Use active voice
  • Do not use present participles or gerunds (unless part of a Technical Name)
  • Write sequential steps as separate sentences
  • Start a safety instruction (a warning or a caution) with a clear and simple command or condition.

 

Controlled Dictionary

STE has a controlled general dictionary that gives the words that are most frequently used in technical writing.

The approved words were selected because they were simple and easy to recognize. In general, each word has only one meaning and functions as only one part of speech. For example, “to fall” has the approved meaning of “to move down by the force of gravity,” and not “to decrease”. 

When there are several words in English for the same thing (synonyms), STE permits one of these synonyms to the exclusion of the others. For example, STE uses “start” instead of “begin”, “commence”, “initiate”, or “originate”. STE approved meanings and spelling are based on American English (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary).

In addition to its general dictionary, STE permits the use of company-specific or project-oriented technical words (referred to in STE as technical names and technical verbs). These words are related to the categories listed in the respective rules.

Basically, writers can use the approved words in the dictionary as a core vocabulary. But they can also use terms that are usual in their companies or industries and applicable to their projects and products.

 

STE Downloads

ASD-STE100, Issue 8

This free download is the full text of the ASD-STE100, Issue 8, the most recent revision, International Specification for the Preparation of Technical Documentation in a Controlled Language

Leveraging STE

Case study of a Simplified Technical English (STE) conversion in the Engineering sector. The conversion was intended to remove the archaic wording and make the text easier to translate and understand. The transformation resulted in reduced cost and better translations.

Orwellian Writing Rules and Creativity

Creativity need not be sacrificed for the sake of clear text.  George Orwell, who had his own set of STE rules to write by, left us proof of that.

 

“The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for HateWeek. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.” – 

George Orwell, 1984

 

Arguably one of the most famous books ever written, 1984 was the product of an incredibly creative mind. But George Orwell was also acutely aware that he needed to address and engage his audience in plain English. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU was such a powerful image, captured with vivid brushstrokes,  that it became part of our cultural lexicon as a description for intrusive government.

STE Writing Rules, George Orwell Six Writing Rules, Section 1 - Words, Rule 1.3, approved words, Simplified Technical English, ASD

 

George Orwell’s Six Writing Rules

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

 

“To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up.” –

George Orwell

A key goal in translation is interpreting the author’s intention. Translating a text to or from STE is made easier by reducing sentences to their core intended meaning. This allows STE to be used in the translation of documents into multiple languages at one time, giving a framework of sentence structure that can be more easily altered than standard English to suit the sentence syntax and structure in other languages.

 

 

 

 

Why Work With Us?

We are creative, believers in critical thought.  Our layouts are sophisticated and appropriate, effective.  Our work is informative and engaging.  Let our technical writing services save you time, money, revisions and failed presentations.

GET IN TOUCH