Standardisation is widely practised in manufacturing to realise economy of scale at the product level. Why not apply standardisation to documentation?
Data standardisation is cost saving by common sense. Injuries, losses and costly legal liabilities can occur as a result of unclear documentation and ambiguous translations. Just like the manufacturing industry makes use of standard components in their product assembly line, Simplified Technical English uses standard vocabulary in the ASD-STE100 specification and consistent industry-/product specific terminology to create documentation.
The borrowed concept of standardisation in the engineering world when translated into the technical documentation industry is based on standardised terminology and simple grammar rules.
The latter for instance, promotes the use of the active voice and simple present tense to clearly identify the doer of a particular action so as to avoid miscommunication and ambiguous translations during the localisation process. In a nutshell, we can draw a parallel between grammar rules and SOPs that both share a common purpose in streamlining processes in a straightforward and objective manner.
What is STE, and how does STE differ from Standard English and how do I know if this is right for my industry?
ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English (STE) is an international standard that helps to make technical documentation easy to understand. Simplified Technical English standardises vocabulary, grammar and style, while letting users control their specific terminology. Although Simplified Technical English originates from the aerospace and defence industries, it can easily be customised and applied to any other industry, including machinery, automotive, electronics, IT and medical equipment. Major manufacturers and the S1000D standard require the use of ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English.
Simplified Technical English pays for itself
Our customer is a manufacturer of mobile X-ray based imaging solutions. They created an operator manual and a service manual in Standard English. This manual is to be translated into 7 other languages.
Before using Simplified English, the manuals had a total word count of 67,300 words. The number of pages was 454. In Simplified English, the word count came down to 49,600 words. The page count was reduced to 406.
Text in Simplified Technical English is easier to understand and may not even require translation. Where translation is needed, Simplified Technical English helps to drastically reduce translation cost and time-to-market, as it effectively eliminates redundant words and improves consistency.
The company thus saves almost EUR 21,000 or 35% on the translation of these manuals. For subsequent manuals, the savings would increase further thanks to better re-use and yield from translation memory.
With the ever increasing number of languages that companies need to deal with, these savings add up quickly. As content in Simplified Technical English is easier to validate, technical writers will be more productive, and fewer iterations and less rework will be required.
For this reason, the time-to-market is reduced by a similar percentage.
Editorial note: Based on feedback from readers, we would like to clarify that the cost reduction above is based on statistics from standard commercial memory tools, i.e. re-use on the sentence (segment level). This is brought by a combination of consistent style, vocabulary and terminology.
Copyright © 2016 Shufrans TechDocs. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever without express written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.