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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


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.

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?



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.


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.


Do You Need STE Clarity?  Let’s Talk