leadforensicsSimplified Technical English (STE)
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Simplified Technical English (STE)

What is STE?

Simplified Technical English, STE for short, is a controlled language produced to make technical documentation more comprehensible. The use of predetermined sets of words and writing rules aids technical writers to make works more intelligible. It is also important for foreign English speakers and the end-users of technical files, such as product manuals, instructions, user guides, reports. The official name of the above-mentioned language is ASD-STE100 which represents an international specification of the approved words, grammar structures and language styles, related to different subjects. The present-day edition holds a library of 900 ratified words and 53 writing rules.

The purpose of STE development

Due to historical, economic, political and cultural reasons, the English language serves as a common means for communication and documentation worldwide. It has become a lingua franca for speakers of various cultural backgrounds and is the main language of politics, science and machinery. However, some creators of English textual content have deficient linguistic skills and are often confused with sentence structures, synonyms and words’ meaning. In areas, such as aerospace, aviation, military industry avoiding errors and discrepancies is crucial for security and protection. Improper interpretation of the information can cause considerable damage and negatively affect people’s lives. Therefore, the main STE objective is ensuring safe cooperation and clear understanding by giving the writers instructions how to write properly.

The Origins of STE

It was created by military and aerospace industries – areas where clarity and safety are vital for optimal performance. These industries had complex documentation, often confusingly readable and hindering factual understanding. The technical evolution required people to invest into readable comprehensive documentation and translation. It was also inevitable for the economy, because you can only sell products, operated and repaired by ordinary people. The technical documents’ creation was undergoing forthcoming changes. In the 1970s the Association of European Airlines (AEA) began to search for a solution to render the documentation readable and user-friendly. The efforts were taken to investigate the living controlled languages and analyze maintenance guides to generate a straightforward form of the language – STE.

Consequently, STE extended its potential benefits into numerous spheres: manufacturing, economy and academic studies. Later in the article its essential role in the professional translation, interpreting and linguistic solutions will be underlined.

STE writing rules and vocabulary

STE comprises controlled lists of words to be employed in technical content. The chosen words are effortless to recognize: they are monosemic, approved as one part of speech to exclude ambiguity. STE ratified definition of the verb “to follow” is “to go after”, “to come after” (not “obey”). Instead of saying “Follow the instructions” one should say “Obey the instructions”, as the verb “to follow” doesn’t have an accepted meaning in this context.

Basic regulations of STE:

  • use ratified words and forms of verbs/adjectives from STE dictionary
  • avoid passive voice in texts, choose active structures (“The screws should be replaced” is wrong, correct STE example is “The mechanics should replace the screws”)
  • include only relevant information (delete additional and unnecessary data)
  • don’t put more than 3 nouns in a row. It can decrease technical texts’ quality (for ex., “screw adjustment mechanism”)
  • keep everything short avoiding language confusion.


According to ASD-STE100 specification, unapproved forms are allowed if they are technical terms or parts of them (examples: the word “engine” - a technical name, the word “ream” - a technical verb). Additionally, it gives a list of technical vocabulary words, allowed for utilization:

- names of vehicles (aircraft, bicycle, wing, truck)
- names of support equipment, tools and parts (cover, blade, roller, handle) - names of consumables, materials (acid, fuel, grease, oil) - names of infrastructure, logistics procedures (shipping, storage, transport, dock) - names of components and circuits (air conditioning, power unit, input frequency) - scientific, mathematical, engineering terms (critical temperature, gravity, density, diameter) - geographic and navigation terms (altitude, delay, south, west) - names of SI units (ampere, kilogram, knot, liter), etc.

Jargon words and slang are strictly prohibited as technical terms. There’s a particular verb category which includes technical verbs describing computer, manufacturing processes, as well as military, scientific, engineering and mathematical procedures. ASD-STE100 international specification contains extra information to explore regarding those verbs.

The benefits of STE technology

The utilization of STE technology is beneficial in multiple areas: air defense and military aviation, customer service, advertisement, language studies and communication. STE assists to:

1) decrease misunderstanding for foreign-born English speakers by enhancing documentation comprehension;
2) improve the technical documents’ standard for the end-users eliminating defects and human factor risks;
3) render translation cheaper and more efficient (computer translations become almost perfect with the application of STE, especially in the age of AI);
4) reduce time-to-market through clear documentation sharing the common tongue with the customers;
5) increase the brand awareness and competitiveness in the sphere of commerce.

Simplified Technical English software

Mastering STE can be compared to acquiring a newly discovered language, therefore using specific software can contribute to gaining the necessary knowledge and skills. STE solutions are hard to find, however there exist companies specializing in these particular languages technologies. Lingvanex is one of the companies offering AI-driven translation solutions and STE tools. The developers of the Lingvanex Simplified Technical Converter aimed to help businesses utilize the principle of simplification to make technical content more accessible at a reasonable price.

Lingvanex Simplified Technical English Converter maintains a base of STE grammar rules and terminology which can help transform your language structures using technical terms and phrases. Lingvanex can assist in verifying the sentence structures conforming to ASD-STE100 STE norms, also highlight grammar inaccuracies, recommend on the choice of words and linguistic styles. Before you deploy the STE Converter, get a free trial and make sure that you can customize it to your company’s needs.

Conclusion

STE utilization can be a great help when companies want to make sure every worker understands complex instructions and documentation. Unfortunately, there are few specialized solutions available for businesses on the market. However, it’s still possible to find companies that provide STE services at a reasonable price. Lingvanex offers their custom-trained STE Converter for various businesses that require comprehensible technical communication.


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