Simplified Technical English: How Standardization of Content Will Reduce Costs and Facilitate Quality Assurance
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Simplified Technical English: How Standardization of Content Will Reduce Costs and Facilitate Quality Assurance



Presented by Berry Braster at Documentation and Training West, May 6-9, 2008 in Vancouver, BC...

Presented by Berry Braster at Documentation and Training West, May 6-9, 2008 in Vancouver, BC

Products and processes are becoming more complex, while companies worldwide increasingly have to deal with different languages.

Although technical documentation is predominantly written in English, it can often be difficult to understand due to its complexity: complex sentence structures, multiple meanings and synonyms easily result in confusion. In addition, many readers’ command of English can fall below the level of those who created the documentation, which especially applies to non-native English speakers.

In addition, for documentation that has to be translated into other languages, one cannot expect the translation to be of great quality if the source file was ambiguous to begin with.

As a result, these are often the consequences:

* Confused and frustrated readers
* Safety risk
* Damage during operation or maintenance
* Liability claims
* High localization costs
* Unsatisfactory translations
* Higher training support costs
* Ineffective customer service
* Unanticipated costs as a result of miscommunication

In this context, clear and effective writing has become more important than ever before.

Simplified Technical English (also known as Controlled English) is a method of writing that makes technical English easy to understand. The use of Simplified Technical English stimulates (global) acceptance of technical documentation as it improves readability and prevents misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Benefits of Simplified Technical English

* Standardization of technical writing
* Quality assurance for technical documentation
* Efficient authoring and editing
* Reduction of errors, misunderstandings and safety risks
* Reduced time to market
* Easier to reuse, translate and maintain
* Cost savings due to reduced risk of safety, damage and liability claims
* Lower product lifecycle cost
* Content management: Simplified Technical English facilitates CMS through optimum reusability of content that is clear and concise

How controlled authoring facilitates XML and translations

As today’s authoring environment is changing to structured XML and content management, it would only make sense to also adapt controlled terminology and good writing practice rules to further improve reusability and create additional cost savings.

Doing so will not only standardize the content, it will standardize content management in general, create efficiency, and further increase the many benefits content management already offers. Reusability is the key word here, which applies both to the English content, as well as to the translations, which can decrease the content up to 30% AND save translation cost up to 40% per language! Cheaper translations are one aspect, but avoiding costs as a result of clear and unambiguous communication to our customers can be tremendous, let alone the fact that our customers simply understand what they are reading, which will be a further enhancement to your product.

Simplified Technical English is a long-term and comprehensive initiative designed to standardize the way technical publications are written. It facilitates globalization in a reliable, cost-effective and efficient way.

In addition to bringing clarity and consistency to technical documentation, STE can save you up to 30% in translation cost. Furthermore, STE facilitates industry standards like DITA, S1000D, and SCORM, but also XML and CMS through optimum reusability.

If you are opting to go towards any of these standards, if you have a translation requirement, or in case you are only looking to create clearer and understandable technical documentation, Simplified Technical English is the standard to take into serious consideration.

Berry Braster will explain the principles of STE and its benefits, and will give you practical and real-life examples in the form of case s



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Simplified Technical English: How Standardization of Content Will Reduce Costs and Facilitate Quality Assurance Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Simplified Technical English Quality Assurance & Standardization for technical documentation
  • 2.
    • Established in 1974
    • Services for technical documentation,
    • including translations and content
    • management solutions
    • Offices in Europe, USA, Singapore and Japan
    • References: Boeing, Caterpillar,
    • Eurocopter, Philips, BAe Systems, Hyster, Saab, S iemens, WatchGuard
  • 3. Outline
    • Simplified Technical English – why?
    • History
    • Benefits
    • Samples of writing rules
    • How to implement
  • 4. The risks of not standardizing
    • Turn off the engines not required
    • means…
    • Turn off the engines that are not required, or
    • Turning off the engines is not required
  • 5. The risks of not standardizing
    • Clean the turret dome chassis thermal window securing screw threaded holes and the thermal window 16 securing screws of all previously used sealant using solvent.
    • means…
    • Clean the screw threaded holes and the 16 securing screws of the thermal window. Use solvent to remove all sealant.
  • 6. A call to a help desk
    • Caller: "Can you give me the telephone number for Jack?"
    • Operator : "I'm sorry, sir, I don't understand who you are talking about."
    • Caller: "On page 1, section 5, of the user guide it clearly states that I need to unplug the fax machine from the AC wall socket and telephone jack before cleaning. Now, can you give me the number for Jack?"
    • Operator : "I think you mean the telephone plug-in point on the telephone."
  • 7. What can go wrong
  • 8. Avoid miscommunication
    • Be unambiguous
    • Be consistent
    • Provide your customer with quality
    • Consider your audience
  • 9. Example (saw bench manual) Gain access to blade. After removing old blade, new blade may be fitted by proceeding in reverse order, using gloves to avoid injuries by teeth of blade. Before you attempt any of the above, the power should have been switched off. Make sure that the on/off switch is in the “off” position. Remove the blade cover from the machine. Warning: wear gloves when you touch the blade. Remove the old blade. Install the new blade. See figure A. Install the blade cover. Written in Technical English ... ... Written in Simplified Technical English Keep it simple, be specific, be consistent
  • 10. The Risks After removing old bolt, new screw may be fitted by proceeding in reverse order, using gloves to avoid injuries by sharp edges of fan blades.
    • Confused and frustrated readers
    • Safety risk
    • Damage during operation or maintenance
    • Potential for product liability
    • High localization costs
    • Unsatisfactory translations
    • Higher training support costs
    • Ineffective customer service
  • 11. Simplified Technical English
    • STE makes technical English easy to understand
      • Writing rules for grammar and style
      • Keep it simple, be specific, be consistent
      • STE generic dictionary ( ± 900 words)
      • One word = one meaning
      • Add company-specific terms to dictionary
    • Technical names (approved)
    • Technical verbs (approved)
    • Non-approved custom words linked to synonyms
    STE Dictionary Company Dictionary
    • 900 approved words (900)
    • 2,000 non-approved words
    • linked to synonyms
    Writing Rules (57)
  • 12. History
    • 1932: BASIC English – Ch. K. Ogden
    • 1970: US Federal Government encourages
    • regulation writers to use Plain English
    • 1972: Caterpillar Fundamental English
    • (later Caterpillar Technical English)
    • 1980: AECMA Simplified English , to improve
    • the readability of aircraft maintenance
    • manuals: required by aerospace and
    • defense industries
    • 2004: AECMA becomes ASD
    • 2005: AECMA SE renamed to
    • Specification ASD-STE100
    • (Simplified Technical English)
    • Companies in various industries are discovering the benefits of
    • Simplified Technical English: automotive,
    • IT, medical equipment, etc.
  • 13. Benefits of STE
    • Quality assurance and improvement
    • Standardized way of writing
    • Based on an official Specification (ASD-STE100) and required by others (S1000D and ATA 2200)
    • Improved safety
    • Efficient authoring
    • Time saving for you and your customer:
      • Reduced time for maintenance operations
      • Reduced time to market
    • Good customer service
    • Burden on your customer reduced
    • Facilitates content management
    • Facilitates structured authoring (DITA, S1000D)
    • Considerable cost savings
    • Cheaper, faster and better translations
  • 14. Why STE as a basis
    • As with many high quality, safety and technology standards, STE derives from A&D
    • STE is a linguistic / international standard
    • A&D, therefore strict by nature:
      • You don’t have to reinvent the wheel
      • You can be flexible where needed
  • 15. Cost Savings
    • Time saving = cost saving
    • Decreased word count (up to 20%): decreased volume of manuals
    • Cheaper to translate (up to 40%), print and maintain
    • Avoid costs resulting from poor communication :
      • Confusion
      • Recall
      • Lost production time
      • Liability claims
  • 16. How to implement
    • Three steps:
    • Create company-specific dictionary
    • Training of writers on writing rules
    • Check your documentation with HyperSTE checker software
      • Quality Assurance / Quality Control / Quality Measurement
      • Faster product cycle time
      • Efficient authoring
  • 17. Writing Rules
    • Words
    • Noun phrases
    • Verbs
    • Sentences
    • Procedural vs. descriptive
    • Warning, cautions, notes
    • Punctuation and word counts
    • Writing practices
  • 18. HyperSTE - features Supports semantic checking Profile management : apply different sets of rules to different parts or types of documents Customizable and configurable to your technical documentation needs Converts units of measurement , US English to UK English and vice versa Quality Assurance : create reports for validation purposes Supports the use of multiple dictionaries Available as a plug-in for Arbortext Epic Editor, Adobe FrameMaker, XMetaL, Microsoft Word and as a PDF checker Dictionary Maintenance Tool available: manage your dictionary Exports interactive feedback to HTML: allow suppliers and contractors to access HyperSTE feedback interactively Allows rules to be added or disabled (e.g. incorporate company style guides, check for correct use of terminology only, allow for step by step conversion of legacy data, etc.) Distinguishes procedural vs. descriptive text Customizable for all industries Fully ASD-STE100 compliant (for aerospace and defense)
  • 19. HyperSTE Screengrab # 1 EPIC document HyperSTE is available as a plug-in for Epic, FrameMaker, Word, XMetal and as a stand-alone checker for PDF files. Interactive check in Epic: check an element or the entire document.
  • 20. You have the option to select which language you would like to receive interactive feedback in. Available languages for interactive feedback: English (US or UK), French, German, Spanish, Portuguese (BR), Russian, Japanese and Bahasa Indonesia.
  • 21. HyperSTE Screengrab #5 HyperSTE errors wrong spelling/capitalization HyperSTE: in addition to writing rules, HyperSTE checks for the correct use of terminology. In this case, “ma-osc module” is misspelled. HyperSTE provides linguistic feedback: ma-osc module is a singular noun and has approved forms . Origin: which dictionary is loaded. Messsages: HyperSTE provides feedback on which error occurs, which rule applies and approved forms. Semantic information: definition of the approved form. List of unknown words in the document. Suggested correction: by clicking on ‘update document’ the incorrect word will be replaced with the suggested correction, and the sentence will automatically be rechecked.
  • 22. Although ‘higher’ is approved, it is not precise enough. HyperSTE informs the writer to use clear references.
  • 23. ‘ acceptable’ is not clear enough. HyperSTE gives several suggestions. In this context, the word ‘permitted’ is the best option. Synonyms: by clicking on each synonym you will be given a definition , as well as a non-approved sentence and an approved sentence . This will help the writer to determine the correct word.
  • 24. Do not use the ‘genitive s’. HyperSTE suggests either ‘system performance’ or ‘performance of the system’. Synonyms: either use the phrase performance of the system or the noun system performance .
  • 25. HyperSTE informs the writer to use the active voice in procedural writing: ‘when you use the system..’.
  • 26. Warnings must start with a simple and clear command. The writer knows the correct command: “Warning: do not touch the housing because it can be hot.”
  • 27. Words that are not in the dictionary can be added to the user dictionary, and can later be added to the main dictionary.
  • 28. HyperSTE supports semantic checking: approved words only have one approved meaning. Wrong meaning: although ‘follow’ is an approved word, it is not allowed here as it has the wrong approved meaning.
  • 29. Quality assurance / quality control (QA/QC): create a report on a single or multiple files for validation purposes.
  • 30. HyperSE Screengrab #9 HyperSTE errors Create report Statistics are provided in an Excel or XML sheet. Click on a rule to see which sentences include the error.
  • 31. HyperSTE Screengrab #11 HyperSTE errors Create report Unknown words and unapproved words can be identified quickly to help maintain the dictionary.
  • 32. HyperSE Screengrab #10 HyperSTE errors Create report The XML report shows the compliance rating.
  • 33. Share HyperSTE’s interactive feedback with your colleagues, suppliers, or contractors by exporting to HTML.
  • 34. HyperSTE Screengrab #12 HyperSTE export feedback You will only need an Internet browser to view the same interactive feedback as the writer.
  • 35. HyperSTE allows you to automatically convert between units of measurement: metric to non-metric and visa versa.
  • 36. HyperSTE settings menu: configure text rules to meet your authoring requirements. HyperSTE checks for over 57 rules on terminology and grammar: words, nouns, verbs, numbers, punctuation, sentences, paragraphs, warnings/cautions/notes and part of speech. HyperSTE allows you to automatically convert between American English and British English . Select or unflag the rules to meet your business needs .
  • 37. Determine the sentence length for procedural and descriptive writing. If you want to omit certain rules, you can do so by simply not selecting them. HyperSTE complies with ASD Simplified Technical English (aerospace and defense standard), but also includes corporate style guide rules, and can easily be customized to any industry .
  • 38. HyperSTE supports the use of multiple dictionaries: in addition to the primary ‘company’ dictionary, you can create project-specific dictionaries. Additonal dictionaries can include company, product, project, or customer specific technical names.
  • 39. Create profiles to apply different sets of rules to different parts or types of documents. Profile manager: by simply loading a profile all predetermined settings (such as which rules, which dictionaries and which types of text should be checked according to which rules) will automatically be loaded.
  • 40. Thank you
    • For more information, please contact:
    • Tedopres, Inc.
    • 1705 S. Capital of Texas Hwy, Suite 500
    • Austin, Texas 78746
    • USA
    • Tel: +1 512 306 8601
    • Fax: +1 512 306 9320
    • E-mail:
    or visit our website at: