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Dozuki Workshop Series – Optimize your technical content (Part 2 of 3)

Dozuki Workshop Series – Optimize your technical content (Part 2 of 3)

Read Part 1 of our blog series here:

Dozuki Workshop Series – Optimize your technical content (Part 1 of 3)

A precise, coherent and audience-oriented technical content delivery is what every professional technical communicator should aim for, and standardising your terminology and documents at the word, phrase, and sentence levels is the first step to take.

In part two of our three-part text analysis, we will continue to share in more examples of how you can prepare your content for optimum re-use, readability, and translatability. We will highlight areas for improvement, then provide the same information based on Simplified Technical English (STE) writing rules.

RULE: 5.1 Keep procedural sentences as short as possible.

1a) Standard English:

The next two steps demonstrate using the iSclack, a great tool for safely opening the iPhone 5c that we recommend for anyone doing more than one repair on an iPhone 5, 5s, or 5c. If you aren’t using the iSclack, skip to Step 5.

 

1b) STE:

If you do not use the iSclack, go to Step 5. Steps 3 and 4 show you how to use the iSclack to open the iPhone 5c safely. If you will do more than one repair, we recommend this tool.

 

Analysis:

In this rewrite, we advise users to skip the next two steps immediately if they do not use the iSclack. Also, shorter instructions that inform the user what specific actions to complete are easier to process. Procedural sentences in STE should ideally stay within the 20-word limit.

 

RULE: 3.3  Use the approved forms of the verb to make only:

  – The infinitive (to open..)

  – The imperative (Open the..)

 – The past participle as an adjective (the opened valve)

  – The simple present tense (it opens)

  – The simple past tense (it opened)

  – The future tense (you will open..)

2a) Standard English:

  • Close the handle on the iSclack, opening the suction-cup jaws.

 

2b) STE:

  • Close the iSclack handles to open the suction-cup jaws.

 

Analysis:

The present participle or verbs ending in -ing are not used in STE unless they are part of a technical name. Some examples include: during, lighting, missing, routing, and servicing.

 

RULE: 1.1 Only use approved words in the dictionary

3a) Standard English:

  • Place the bottom of your iPhone in between the suction cups, against the plastic depth gauge.
  • The top suction cup should rest just above the home button.
  • Open the handles to close the jaws of the iSclack. Center the suction cups and press them firmly onto the top and bottom of the iPhone.

 

3b) STE:

  • Put the bottom of your iPhone between the suction cups, against the plastic depth gauge.
  • The top suction cup must be just above the home button.
  • Open the handles to close the jaws. Align the suction cups with the center, then push them tightly onto the top and bottom of the iPhone.

 

Analysis:

Use ‘put‘ instead of ‘place’, ‘must‘ instead of ‘should’, ‘push‘ instead of ‘press’, and ‘tightly‘ instead of ‘firmly’. ‘Center‘ is an approved STE word, but only as a technical noun. Ergo, it is necessary to rewrite this clause to: ‘Align the suction cups with the centre,..’.

The STE general vocabulary or dictionary offers technical writers approved synonyms for non-approved words. This is going to be very helpful for the writer who is transitioning from Standard English to Simplified Technical English.

 

Stay tuned for more ‘Optimizing your technical content’ later this month!


Shumin Chen

About the speaker

Since 2006, Ms Shumin Chen has been working as a consultant with customers in various industries worldwide: aerospace and defence, banking, consumer products, healthcare, IT, medical and fitness equipment. She has helped many companies with their documentation needs, based on standards where possible, and is widely regarded as a leading expert in ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English training, aviation documentation and multilingual documentation.

Ms Chen now heads the ASD-STE100 training arm of Shufrans TechDocs. In her current role, Ms Chen continues to focus on the practical implementation of international standards to facilitate the efficient creation and management of multilingual documentation.

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. 

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Dozuki Workshop Series – Optimize your technical content (Part 1 of 3)

Dozuki Workshop Series – Optimize your technical content (Part 1 of 3)

Your content matters

To follow-up with the audience on the webinar session on 26 July 2016, we will share in more detail some examples of how you can prepare your content for optimum re-use, readability, and translatability.

In the three-part text analysis that follows, we will highlight areas for improvement, then provide the same information based on Simplified Technical English (STE) writing rules.

 

Replace iphone 5c power button STE

 

RULE: 1.2 Use approved words from the Dictionary only as the part of speech given.

1a) Standard English:

If your display is cracked, keep further breakage contained and prevent bodily harm during your repair by taping the glass.

 

1b) STE:

If there are cracks in your display glass, use tape to prevent more damage and possible injuries.

 

Analysis:

‘Crack’ is only approved as an STE technical noun, not a verb. For this reason, we changed the past participle form ‘cracked’ to ‘cracks’.

It is also not advisable to use fake verbs or a passive construction such as ‘by taping’ in your sentence. This is a violation of rule 1.2 where ‘tape’ is used only as a noun, and also hides the doer of the action. Instead, write ‘use tape to prevent more damage..’ to sound more direct.

We also removed unnecessary phrasings like ‘keep further breakage contained’ and ‘bodily harm’, substituting them with the simple verb ‘to prevent’, and unambiguous words such as ‘more damage’ to the equipment, and ‘possible injuries’ to the user for a more concise sentence construction.

RULE: 1.6 Use a Technical Name only as a noun, not as a verb.

2a) Standard English:

Lay overlapping strips of clear packing tape over the iPhone’s display until the whole face is covered.

 

2b) STE:

Make a cover for the full display glass area with overlapping strips of clear tape.

 

Analysis:

‘Cover’ is a non-approved verb in STE. Instead, use ‘cover’ as a technical noun. In this sentence pair above, we removed redundant words like ‘lay’, ‘over’, and ‘until’. The result is a concise, more direct sentence for the reader to complete his task more quickly and efficiently.

RULE: 1.3 Keep to the approved meaning of a word in the Dictionary. Do not use the word with any other meaning.

3a) Standard English:

This will keep glass shards contained and provide structural integrity when prying and lifting the display.

 

3b) STE:

This will keep glass shards together and give structural integrity when you move the display.

 

Analysis:

The STE verb ‘contain’ is defined as to have in something or to hold in something. The approved STE adverb ‘together’ appears simpler in meaning and more accurately describes the situation.

‘Provide’ as an unapproved STE verb is replaced with ‘give’, a shorter and more direct alternative.

‘Prying’ and ‘lifting’ can easily be described as ‘to move’. We hardly need to go into detail yet about prying and lifting as we risk confusing the reader at this point in time. Also, the –ing form or present participle verb form is not used in STE unless it is part of a technical name. For instance: lighting, missing, servicing.

RULE: 1.3 Keep to the approved meaning of a word in the Dictionary. Do not use the word with any other meaning.

4a) Standard English:

Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from any glass shaken free during the repair.

 

4b) STE:

Use safety glasses for eye protection during the repair. 

 

Analysis:

‘Wear’ is defined as the action of becoming damaged as a result of friction. For other possibly valid meanings of ‘wear’, STE prefers the verbs ‘use’ or ‘put on’ safety glasses.

 

Further reading: Dozuki Workshop Series – Optimize your technical content (Part 2 of 3)


Shumin Chen

About the speaker

Since 2006, Ms Shumin Chen has been working as a consultant with customers in various industries worldwide: aerospace and defence, banking, consumer products, healthcare, IT, medical and fitness equipment. She has helped many companies with their documentation needs, based on standards where possible, and is widely regarded as a leading expert in ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English training, aviation documentation and multilingual documentation.

Ms Chen now heads the ASD-STE100 training arm of Shufrans TechDocs. In her current role, Ms Chen continues to focus on the practical implementation of international standards to facilitate the efficient creation and management of multilingual documentation.

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. 

Sounds interesting?

For a list of STE approved and non-approved verbs, drop us a line!

Request for the STE verbs list

 

International Standards at Shufrans TechDocs

International Standards at Shufrans TechDocs

Safety starts with quality. The best product is only as good as its documentation and technical data allow the customer to make optimum use of it. Formerly known as Simplified English, Simplified Technical English (STE) is an international standard (ASD-STE100) 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.

Using guidelines from the ASD-STE100 specification, writers and editors can take document clarity and consistency to the next level. Text written in Simplified Technical English shows improved readability and translatability. These benefits should not be overlooked as products and their accompanying documentation are increasingly shipped to many countries worldwide where English is not the main language used. Consequently, whether the majority of your audience is made up of native or non-native speakers of the English language, getting your message across clearly becomes faster and easier.

Text based on Simplified Technical English is also cheaper and faster to translate. Users of your documentation will benefit from higher translation quality, and mistranslations become less of a concern.
Injuries, losses and costly legal liabilities can happen as a result of unclear documentation and ambiguous translations. Simplified Technical English is based on standardised terminology and simple grammar rules. Consistent terminology facilitates your task of indexing and helps users to find pertinent information faster by eliminating unnecessary synonyms and spelling variants.

 

Different industries, one technical language?

Different industries, one technical language?

Given the success of Simplified Technical English (STE) and its adaptability, it was over time applied to various document types, and increasingly also in other (mainly technical) industries. In the aerospace and defence industries, safety, efficiency and readability are the main considerations for the use of STE, in many other industries, such as machinery, automotive, electronics, IT and medical equipment, another important consideration is to save on translation cost without compromising on translation quality.

 

Simplified Technical English (STE) rules describe sound writing practices

STE is an aerospace standard, or at least it started off as an aerospace standard. That having been said, out of those 65 writing rules, I couldn’t name a single one that is aerospace-specific. Take these STE rules for example:

  1. Do not make long sentences (maximum 20 words for procedures, 25 words for descriptive text).
  2. Do not use clusters of more than 3 nouns.
  3. Only use simple verb tenses.
  4. When you give an instruction, use the imperative/command form of the verb.

Well, most of us will have seen this kind of rules. We don’t like long sentences and Simplified Technical English tells us that for procedures or tasks there should be no more than 20 words in one sentence. For descriptive text we are allowed some more flexibility, and we need that, we have up to 25 words. Also English is a rather problematic language in that it allows us to just put any number of nouns into a cluster, and this makes it very difficult at times to see the relationship between the nouns in those clusters. For example ‘left engine switch’ can already be confusing, and difficult to understand, difficult to accurately translate.

If I say ‘left engine switch’, does that mean it is the switch for the left engine, or is it the left switch for a specific engine? So, do ‘left’ and ‘switch’ or ‘left’ and ‘engine’ belong together most directly?

In this case, the use of prepositions such as ‘of’, or ‘for’ will help to clarify this. Take the example of the ‘runway light connection resistance calibration‘. While it is common to see noun clusters made from several words  in technical language, clusters that are too long will mean that your reader has to make his way through four modifying words to reach the main noun.

For technical writing professionals who are considering the option of implementing Simplified Technical English (STE) in their organisation, you now see that many of the STE writing principles are very valid for all technical documentation purposes.

 

One STE rule that can transform your technical writing skills

One valuable STE rule is the rule that I would consider the most important one: Only use approved words. This is where Simplified Technical English becomes really different from corporate style guides. Why? Because the STE language standard includes a core vocabulary (or general dictionary) of around 930 words that will let you write just about everything that you need for technical documentation, even for procedural information in general.

We find that roughly 95% of the words in the STE general dictionary can be easily adapted even for general banking, like financial aspects of banking information. The set-up of the STE standard is such that you can very easily adapt the STE to suit and cover your specific needs. It mainly entails additions to the dictionary which are customarily made, even for aerospace customers. Because even within aerospace, there is a lot of variation when it comes to vocabulary, terminology, especially when dealing with different systems on board an aircraft.

ASD-STE100-coffee-machine

As a very simple example, one of our customers actually makes coffee machines. Now coffee machines seem to have nothing to do with aircraft. However, I think 98% of passenger aircraft actually have coffee machines on board, and they need their documentation in Simplified Technical English.

Now if this coffee machine happens to be in an office, or in a medical practitioner’s practice, or in a cafeteria, would it really require documentation that is all that different from the documentation on board an aircraft? No.. If anything at all, we just restrict the rules a little bit less. Aerospace tends to be a little bit more restrictive, we just relax the rules a little bit for other industries.

 

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. 

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How ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English can help you save time and cost

How ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English can help you save time and cost

STVY (Finnish STC) article on ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English by Dr. Frans Wijma. Nakyma-STE-article

First published in Suomen teknisen viestinnän yhdistys ry. • The Finnish Technical Communications Society • Näkymä Joulukuu/December 2012

Rules regulate the choice and use of words, building phrases and sentences, the use of articles, the verb tenses that can be used and (to some extent) the punctuation. Some of the rules are specific to procedural or to descriptive text. Part of the rules is generally known to professional communicators, but the overall set is in general rather nicely balanced while going beyond most corporate and general style guides..

 

Future-proof your technical English writing skills

Future-proof your technical English writing skills

In this year’s economic slowdown, training budgets are often the first to shrink, if not, put on hold, as companies try to reduce costs in all areas. Unfortunately, businesses also start to see a direct impact on their level of competitiveness and overall success when they do not continue to invest in employee training.

Thankfully, many quality assurance (QA) managers know about the importance of documentation and the importance of standards to support their documentation.

QA managers recognise that to continue to deliver high quality services and products to their customers, their companies cannot stop investing in competence development to improve their employees’ skills, knowledge and career confidence. Motivated employees suggest a more promising outlook for any business’ future.

Reasons for acquiring Simplified Technical English (STE) writing skills as a professional asset

English happens to be a very rich language, meaning that, amongst other things, it has a huge vocabulary.

English has about three times as many words as French or German. However, in French or German you can say just the same things that you can say in English.

This implies that English has redundant or ambiguous words. Also, English grammar is a problem even for most native English speakers, and it can be highly confusing especially to people who speak English as a second language. Therefore, we want to try and do away with this huge, unnecessary part of the vocabulary, and we want to simplify grammar to what is essential to getting our message across.

Keeping your technical content concise yet precise – the basic principles of STE

1) Only use one word for one function, procedure or object.

2) Use each word in the ASD-STE100 dictionary based on its defined meaning and specific part of speech only.

3)Write only one instruction per sentence.

Most importantly, Simplified English is unique because this is a very balanced, and rather complete set of rules. It was not based on the personal preferences of just one or two people, but a whole committee that has developed this standard.

Working with great partners from all over the world to bring you high quality training workshop events

Certified STE workshops Spring 2016

Organised in collaboration with partners in Holland, Germany, Austria, India and Russia, our global Simplified Technical English (STE) workshops deliver high-quality training content that allows participants to create technical content in STE with great ease and 100% confidence.

Training offers in spring

Our STE training workshops equip technical communication professionals with the skills and confidence to create user-friendly and readable technical documentation, making it easier to translate, or doing away with the need for translations altogether. Refer to our STE training schedule below:

  1. Singapore, 3 – 4 March 2016
  2. Hyderabad & Bangalore, India, 10 – 15 March 2016
  3. Berlin, Germany, 4 – 5 April 2016
  4. Tiel, the Netherlands, 21 – 22 April 2016
  5. Helsinki, Finland, 9 – 10 May 2016
  6. St Petersburg, Russia, 19 – 20 May 2016

For more information on Shufrans’ training courses, please refer to our training page. Shufrans also offers customised ASD-STE100 training solutions that are tailored to meet your specific business requirements. These training workshops are usually conducted on-site at the customer’s premises or at our offices in Singapore.

To register for one of our open STE training classes, call +65 9777 4730 or email register@shufrans-techdocs.com.

 

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. 

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Standardisation as a cost reduction strategy

Standardisation as a cost reduction strategy

Why standardise?

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.

Simplified English case study

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. 

Are you ready to make STE your strategic partner?

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Human errors in the healthcare industry

Human errors in the healthcare industry

It is important that operation and management information be understandable to the target audience. Sometimes, operation information is conveyed through a less-than-optimum selection of words. The manufacturer’s technical language can result in incomprehensible operation documentation.

Governance of Picture Archiving and Communications Systems: Data Security and Quality Management of Filmless Radiology, Carrison K.S. Tong, Eric T.T. Wong, Human Factors & Culture, 2009

English is the de facto language for almost all industries, including healthcare where communication is crucial to ensure operational efficiency and accuracy. Without good communication among healthcare professionals such as referring medical doctors, technologists, radiologists, clinicians, nurses, suppliers, maintenance and service engineers would imply that high quality standards become impossible to maintain.

 

Human errors can be expensive, lead to accidents, and risk product quality

More often than not, operation information is conveyed through a less-than-optimum selection of words. To cite a real-life example of a maintenance procedure where a certain step was ‘proscribed’ meaning prohibited, the technical personnel who read this instruction decided that the procedural step was ‘prescribed’ and hence recommended. Regrettably, he proceeded to carry out the prohibited action with dire consequences.

New manuals, job cards, operations and maintenance service bulletins are prime examples of documentation that must be proofread and beta-tested before being widely circulated. Proportionately, the labour costs involved in such documentation management processes can be immensely high.

 

Document complexity & volume

With the latest medical products and technology made available on the market, the increasing complexity and volume of medical data and healthcare information that must be created, recorded, integrated and managed cannot be avoided. Indeed, voluminous and complex writing that read very differently since they must have been supplied by various product manufacturers can negatively impact hospital’s operations when misread or misinterpreted. Volumes of user manuals from various sources with at times overlapping information also seem impossible to store and manage usefully.

A popular example in the aerospace industry is the well-known paper stack from aircraft manufacturers that supposedly exceeds the height of Mount Everest. Paper documentation support the work of aircraft operators. Airlines used to afford warehouses full of such paper stacks that document historical records of their aircraft maintenance. All of which proved too expensive to maintain later on.

Consequently, unmanageable volumes of text, document complexities, time-critical operations, as well as the growing proportion of healthcare workers whose first language is not English, all point to the need for a unifying English language standard that would allow the community to speak with one voice and convey critical information using fewer words.

Create manuals that speak with one voice

Safety begins with quality. Even the best product is only as good as its documentation and technical data, which allow the customer to use it safely and effectively.

Many incidents identified in the healthcare industry revealed poor technical understanding and communication due to missing user manuals, inadequately described operating instructions, and badly maintained  equipment that add to the series of errors and accident occurrences.

Let’s take a close look at the following case study excerpt. Our customer is a manufacturer of mobile X-ray based imaging solutions. They created an operator manual and a service manual in Standard English that was subsequently edited in a controlled language known as Simplified Technical English (STE).

Standard English: inconsistent tone and excessive use of words

Control Panel Both the C-arm stand and the monitor cart have a control panel. The two control panels always show the same screen, enabling you to use them for system operation.Depending on the selected function, other controls (buttons, input boxes, displays, etc.) will appear on the control panel screen.The Vision Center control panel is designed as a touch screen. For system operation, just press the desired button or option directly on the touch screen.

STE: uniform tone of voice and standardised sentence structure

Control Panel The C-arm stand and the monitor cart each have a control panel screen. These screens show the same control panel. Each panel lets you operate the system. The panels have different controls for different functions.The control panel is a touch screen. To operate the system, touch the correct button or option.

At the time our customer was writing a range of user and maintenance manuals  for their X-ray imaging equipment. Although the manuals were created and edited by more than 10 technical writers in a team, our customer wanted all manuals to read like they came from one single source. STE provided a cost-saving and easily implemented solution as evidenced by the rewritten STE sample text highlighted above.

ste_casestudy_chart.001

Say it better with fewer words

The implementation of STE in the healthcare sector proved to be a great success. Using a smaller number of words with defined meanings and parts of speech, while adopting a simplified English language structure meant that user manuals now provide a highly consistent and unambiguous tone of voice with a 20% reduction in text volume. Above all, healthcare professionals depend on reliable documentation to operate medical devices and equipment safely and efficiently. STE therefore helps medical equipment manufacturers meet documentation compliance requirements, and can also increase the efficiency and productivity of their employees.

To summarise, an instruction found in a technical procedure must never become a case of interpretation. Work instructions communicated in technical manuals must be concise and let the user or maintenance personnel do their jobs properly, putting patient safety first and foremost.

Copyright © 2015 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.

Are you ready to make STE your strategic partner?

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Simplified Technical English at the core of your documentation strategy

Simplified Technical English at the core of your documentation strategy

Why Simplified Technical English (STE)?

Whether you are looking to implement working standards such as DITA, S1000D, ATA iSpec 2200, RailDex, or ShipDex to standardise your information structure and facilitate content re-use, it is important to give due consideration to the quality of your source text when creating your technical content. Ambiguous or inconsistently worded documentation can result in non-compliant data deliveries, poor customer support, potential legal liabilities, equipment damage, as well as safety risks.

A well-written source text ensures the ease of downstream content management processes such as translations

Improved readability for your technical content

STE prescribes the use of grammar rules that are relatively more restrictive than the standard rules of the English language.

The general vocabulary has only 900 approved words while explicitly listing 1500 other non-approved words with alternative suggestions.

By introducing these grammar and vocabulary restrictions, technical authors can avoid writing overly long sentences and leave out unnecessary technical details where applicable, all of which are obstacles to the ease of readability and sound understanding.

Recommended by global documentation standards

Military defence standards (MIL-SPEC / MIL-STD) such as MIL-STD-3048, as well as technical documentation standards like S1000D and ATA iSpec 2200 recommend the use of ASD-STE100.

Although the S1000D standard was originally intended for the aerospace and defence industry, this widely successful specification has been customised for the shipping and train manufacturing and operations communities giving rise to both ShipDex and RailDex. Likewise, sound and consistent STE writing rules are highly applicable and practical for use across industries.

Simplifying or eliminating the need for translations?

STE is an international aerospace standard that helps to make technical documentation easy to understand. However, the benefits of STE have proven very highly applicable to all industries. That is why 60% of STE users today come from industries outside of aerospace & defence.

Understandably, STE was designed with non-native speakers of the English language in mind. By providing technical writers with a common set of standardised writing rules and general vocabulary, STE enables teams of writers to write technical manuals that are consistently accurate and require less proofreading and editing effort. Consequently, this does away with the need for translations altogether.

Besides the aerospace maintenance industry however, product exports are still subjected to much scrutiny in terms of their paperwork, documentation and associated product translations. Therefore, the use of STE to create technical content can support downstream translation processes in several ways:

  • A 900-word general vocabulary dictionary eliminates the need for other non-approved, and possibly uncommon synonyms. This reduces the likelihood of term-related clarifications and queries from translators, resulting in faster translation processes.
  • Enforcing STE rules strictly guarantees a high level of consistency at word-, phrase-, and sentence-levels.  This allows project managers to leverage on existing translation memories to substantially reduce translation costs.
  • With fewer technical terms to translate and a more uniform translation memory, translators can provide cheaper, faster and better translations thanks to STE.
  • Having STE content in place will result in exceptional translation quality with machine translations as well.

 

In a nutshell

For many years now, the use of STE as a controlled language authoring strategy has successfully taken off not just at large organisations, but also in small and medium enterprises.

With professional Simplified Technical English training that costs only a fraction of supposed “full implementation”, and yet achieves 75% – 85% of the benefits and results of an approach that includes checker software, getting started with STE is no longer the major and expensive investment it used to be.

Training technical writers and engineers to write in STE within two to three days may sound like a simple and straightforward undertaking. However, to change the way your technical authoring team works does require some managerial direction while the team transits to STE. Trained technical writers will experience on a more regular basis, the many benefits that STE as a controlled language writing strategy offers.


Shumin Chen

About the author

Since 2006, Ms Shumin Chen has been working as a consultant with customers in various industries worldwide: aerospace and defence, banking, consumer products, healthcare, IT, medical and fitness equipment. She has helped many companies with their documentation needs, based on standards where possible, and is widely regarded as a leading expert in ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English training, aviation documentation and multilingual documentation.

Ms Chen now heads the ASD-STE100 training arm of Shufrans TechDocs. In her current role, Ms Chen continues to focus on the practical implementation of international standards to facilitate the efficient creation and management of multilingual documentation.

Copyright © 2015 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. 

Are you ready to make STE your strategic partner?

Attend a 2-day certified ASD-STE100 workshop at any of our worldwide locations
Optimise what is between the tags

Optimise what is between the tags

Depending on your industry and requirements, it normally is a great step forward to implement DITA or S1000D to standardise on your information structure and facilitate re-use from a technical point of view. Now, learn how ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English can help you take things to the next level, thus preparing your content for optimum re-use, readability and translatability.

Simplified Technical English (STE) deconstructed – a textual analysis

In the textual analysis that follows, we will underline unapproved words (according to the ASD-STE100 specification) in the Standard English text and then provide the corresponding approved words in STE underlined where possible.

A general misconception might be that STE rewriting is mostly a word for word replacement. However, this is clearly not the case as illustrated in the examples here:

1a) Standard English: The main idea of Exchange clusters is to provide high database availability with fast failover and no data loss.

1b) STE: Exchange clusters have high database availability with fast failover and no data loss.

Analysis: In this above sentence pair, we removed redundant words that do not add meaning to the sentence. The result is a concise, more direct sentence.

2a) Standard English: Usually, it is achieved by having one or more copies of databases or storage groups on the members of the cluster (cluster nodes).

2b) STE: There normally are one or more copies of databases or storage groups on the cluster nodes.

Analysis: ‘Achieved by’ is a passive verb form that is not approved in STE since it hides the doer of the action. By simply stating that ‘there are one or more copies of databases or storage groups ..’ already supports the first sentence.

In the ASD-STE100 specification, Issue 6, January 2013, rule 1.12, writers are advised not to use different technical names for the same thing. In Standard English, ‘members of the cluster’ was presented synonymously alongside ‘cluster nodes’. This is a clear violation of the rule 1.12 that can cause potential readability issues.

In this case, a good technical writing professional must already decide at the outset which technical term to use and then consistently apply the same term when describing the same thing.

3a) Standard English: If the cluster node hosting the active database copy or the active database copy itself fails, the other node hosting the passive copy automatically takes over the operations of the failed node and provides access to Exchange services with minimal downtime.

3b) STE: If there is a problem with the active database copy or its cluster node, a different node with a passive copy automatically replaces the unavailable node and gives access to Exchange services after a short time.

Analysis: ‘Host’ qualifies as an approved technical verb based on the nature of this text. However, in STE, only a limited group of verb tenses is allowed. The –ing form or present participle verb form is not used in STE unless it is part of a technical name. For instance: lighting, missing, servicing. From the STE example, notice that the verb ‘hosting’ is not necessary since we used the possessive determiner ‘its’ to indicate the association between the active database and the cluster node.

It is also not common to use phrasal verbs in STE as each individual verb could hold a different meaning from the phrasal verb itself. We substituted ‘takes over’ with ‘replaces’ and that adds to one less word count – a win-win. ‘Provides’ as an unapproved STE verb is replaced with ‘gives’, a verb with a more direct and clear definition.

4a) Standard English: Thus, the clusters are already serving as a disaster recovery solution themselves.

4b) STE:

Analysis: The last sentence is a summary of all that has been described and is considered repetitive in STE.

 

The case for STE – concluding points

From the brief analysis provided, it is clear by now that STE when implemented properly lets you have:

  • Higher documentation quality due to increased comprehensibility and readability
  • Standardised, concise and meaningful content
  • Reduced translation costs thanks to better source texts

STE allows technical writers to achieve their professional goals in a timely manner with mastery of this specification in less than three training days. When correctly applied, STE writing rules help the technical author present complex information in a well-thought-out and developed style.

 

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