Simplified Technical English (ASD-STE100) is an international standard which oversees the writing style used in technical documentation. The aim to create a controlled language that enables English speakers to easily understand technical texts. ASD-STE100 had initially been developed in the 1980s for industries within aerospace and defense to understand technical texts printed in English. However, in recent years, it has also grown immensely within sectors such as language service providers, professional translation and interpreting, in addition to the academic realm. In this light, the specification is in high demand, further reinforcing its credibility for technical texts.
What does it contain?
It is comprised of 53 ‘writing rules’ and a ‘dictionary with 900 items of controlled vocabulary’, all of which are organised into nine sections. The writing rules are to be used to express technical terminology in a clear manner. To achieve this, translators must adhere to a number of rules during the translation process as demonstrated below.
Important aspects for translators under this specification
- Sentence length
- Paragraph length
- Warning/caution and note errors
- The translation of English texts will become easier
- The specification can apply to other translation domains
- The STE specification helps to reduce the risk of human error
Sentences which provide any type of description must be twenty words or less. The technical writer must also ensure only one instruction per sentence.
Six is the maximum number of sentences allowed within one single paragraph. In addition, linguists are only permitted to use one-sentence paragraphs once in every ten paragraphs.
When providing an instruction, only verbs given in the dictionary are permitted usage. They must refrain from using the gerund form (ing-) of verbs unless it accompanies a technical name. Linguists are only permitted to use past participles after the verbs ‘to be’ or ‘to become’.
Upon writing, these must begin with a command. Where appropriate, the translator can add an explanation to the warning or caution in order to present possible risks clearly. In contrast, error notes must not give commands but rather add information so that the users are well informed of instructions.
Why is this specification important for translation?
Since the specification provides translators with the linguistic guidelines, in turn it leads to more consistency, efficiency and higher quality in translation. Furthermore, the semantic value of STE technical documentation will be easier to translate into other languages, effectively reducing the translation cost for clients. Where there is a possibility to reduce costs, this will appeal to many end users.
Many technical manuals are STE produced today drawing the attention of IT, healthcare and technical documentation. By way of example, 63% of countries outside Europe use the specification and 80% of users are non-native English speakers. For such substantial figures, the standard promotes greater readability and a reduction in language errors. This further drives the need for translation in the market.
This is essential for the health and safety of end users. For more than thirty years, skilled professionals from aviation have been using these principles in their work. With very complex tasks, professionals rely on this concise language to complete them safely. The specification acts as a ‘language for all’, thus encouraging its adoption into industry.
All in all, the ASD-STE100 specification has been an important development for a number of top industries. It is regarded as a vital resource for general technical writing, translation, and effective communication. With insightful into what it can offer for industries, it remains a standard worth knowing.