Berry Braster, Director of tedopress, delivered a valuable presentation on Simplified Technical English (STE) at the S1000D event in Clearwater. His simple and straightforward message—“be clear and unambiguous with your language”. Otherwise your choice of words can cause damage to equipment, customer dissatisafaction, legal action … even death.

According to the AeroSpace and Defense Industries Association (ASD), STE (also referred to as ASD-STE100 Specification ) is “a set of writing rules and a dictionary of controlled vocabulary. The dictionary has sufficient words to express any technical sentence. The words were chosen for their simplicity and ease of recognition. When there are several words in English for a certain thing or action (synonyms), the specification selects one of these synonyms to the exclusion of the others—whenever possible, ‘one word – one meaning’.

Braster helped the audience understand the benefits of STE (quality improvement, increased efficiency, compliance, reduced risks, time savings, etc.) and highlighted how using the specification can help those creating multi-language deliverables decrease word count by as much as 20% while simultaneously increasing content reusability, leading to translation savings of up to 40% .

Braster shared five tips for clearer writing:

  • Use consistent vocabulary and terminology
  • Use technical names/terms when needed, but be specific
  • Do not write long complex sentences – write concise statements devoid of noise words
  • Write procedures that make people responsible for tasks

    • Incorrect:  “When starting the number one engine…”
    • Correct: “When you start the number one engine…”
  • Start warnings and cautions with a clear command, then provide instructions

Implementing STE involves three high-level steps, according to Braster.

  • Creating a company-specific dictionary
  • Training of writers to use STE
  • Checking your documentation with an STE checker tool like this one from tedopres or this one from Boeing.