To make text as clear as possible, use Simplified Technical English

Document status: archived

Presentation at the IDEAS Online Conference (, 2018-01-23, 12:00 to 13:00 Pacific Time.

Human failures cause accidents. A typical cause of human failure is unclear instructions. Simplified Technical English (STE) helps to make instructions clear, and thus STE decreases the risk of human failure. The specification for STE is ASD-STE100 (

STE helps to make sure that technical terms are correct and that technical communicators do not use synonyms of approved technical terms.

Standard English can be difficult for people who read English as a second language. Phrasal verbs (multi-word verbs) such as 'carry out', 'put up with', and 'work out' are a special problem. STE helps to make text clear to people who read English as a second language.

Frequently, instructions must be supplied in the languages of the readers. If STE is used as the source language, the cost of translation to each language is minimized, because the text is consistent.

STE is a controlled (natural) language, which initially was developed for the aircraft industry. Now, it is used in many safety-critical industries. This presentation gives some examples of rules from STE and briefly compares STE with other types of simplified English.

The implementation of STE in an organization is not easy. The implementation must include terminology management. Input from subject-matter experts is necessary. Possibly, technical communicators will resist the use of STE, because they do not like to conform to a controlled language. Technical communicators must be trained to write STE.

The STE specification is large, and to remember all the rules is not easy. Software can help to find many nonconformities. But, software cannot find all types of error.

Structured writing is an established feature of technical communication. But, for a document to be fully structured, the permitted terms and the permitted sentence structures must be specified. A validating XML editor must give a validation warning if a technical communicator uses other terms or sentence structures. ASD-STE100 helps to give structure to the sentences.

In this presentation, you will learn about the benefits of STE. You will learn not only what it is, but also, what it is not. The implementation of STE is not easy, and Mike Unwalla talks about some typical problems that an organization must solve to implement STE effectively.

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