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Frequently Asked Questions

These questions and answers were created by the STEMG to assist you in understanding the concepts of ASD Simplified Technical English (STE).

Please contact the STEMG for any further information you may require.


SUMMARY OF QUESTIONS

GENERAL
· What is ASD Simplified Technical English (STE)?
· What is the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD)?
· Who created STE? And why?
· Why does any industry need STE?
· Who needs to write in STE?
· Why aren’t all technical documents written in STE?

SPECIFICATION
· How can I get a copy of the specification?
· How is the STE specification maintained?
· When will the next issue of specification be published?
· Who do I complain to about STE?
· How can I make suggestions to improve STE?

WRITING RULES (Part 1)
· Why does STE not allow “-ing” forms?
· Do conditional clauses always need to precede the main clause?
· Why can’t I use passive sentences in procedures?
· Why can’t I change the language in warnings and cautions. How do I make them compliant with STE?

DICTIONARY (Part 2)
· Does the STE Dictionary include all the words that are necessary to write technical documentation?
· If I submit a Change request (change form) for a new word or meaning, can I use it immediately?
· How were the words for the STE dictionary chosen?
· Can technical names and technical verbs contain vocabulary that is explicitly unapproved in the STE dictionary section?

SOFTWARE, TRAINING AND MISCELLANEOUS
· Is a checker or a software product necessary to write in STE?
· Where can I get STE training?
· How is STE related to U.S. reading grade levels?
· Is STE simple to write?
· Is STE “baby English”?
· Is STE just for non-native speakers of English?
· Does STE eliminate the need for translation?
· If translation is necessary, does STE help the translation process?
· Will STE change the meaning of technical texts?
· Can government employees use STE?
· Can I speak STE?
· Do readers need training for STE?
· Can STE be used to teach English?
· Can STE be applied to documents other than maintenance documents?

 
ANSWERS

GENERAL

What is ASD Simplified Technical English (STE)?
STE is a controlled language. It includes a set of writing rules (approximately 65) and basic dictionary (approximately 880 approved words) for writing technical documentation. The writing rules regulate the use of words, layout, sentence length, and how to write warnings, cautions and notes. The dictionary includes general words that you need to make sentences. Besides these general words in the dictionary, you can use two additional families of words, called “technical names ” and “technical verbs”. STE (which is not “technical jargon”) does not control these words. It simply helps you decide, through its categorization, whether a word can be a technical name or a technical verb. Then, company policies or projects will define their preferences.

What is ASD?
The AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) represents the aeronautics, space, defence and security industries in Europe in all matters of common interest with the objective of promoting and supporting the competitive development of the sector. The ASD Secretariat is based in Brussels with an ASD-EUROSPACE office in Paris. Mr. Jan Pie is the Secretary General. For more information, please visit www.asd-europe.org.

Who created STE? And why?
The STE project was started in 1979. At that time, there were far more aircraft manufacturers than there are today, and, although they all wrote in English to the same ATA Specification (known as ATA 100 at the time), their writing styles were very different. There was documentation written in American English (Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed…), in British English (Hawker Siddeley, British Aircraft Corporation, …) and by companies whose native language was not English (Fokker, Aeritalia, Aerospatiale, and some of the companies that formed Airbus at the time). On top of that, some European airlines had to translate parts of their maintenance documentation into their local language for their mechanics to be able to understand it.
This was a source of problems for the European airline industry and led them to approach AECMA in 1979, to ask the manufacturers to investigate the possibility of using a controlled form of English – and of course, of all manufacturers using the same! After investigation into types of controlled languages that existed in other industries, AECMA decided to produce its own controlled English, and in 1983, set up a project group, under the leadership of Fokker. The project was not limited to European industry, though. The American aerospace industry, through the AIA (Aerospace Industries Association of America) was invited to participate, especially as some AIA companies had already done some standardization along the same lines.
The result of this collaborative work was a guide, known as the AECMA Simplified English Guide. This guide is now a Specification and in 2004, after the merger of AECMA with two other associations to form ASD, changed its name to become ASD Simplified Technical English, Specification ASD-STE100. In 2006, the Specification got the European Community Trade Mark.

Why does any industry need STE?
STE addresses difficulties in English comprehension related to complex sentence structures, confusing word forms, and ambiguous vocabulary. STE was created for the aerospace industry, but its benefits are indeed applicable to all industries. For example, it can be used for land and sea vehicles, as detailed in S1000D Specification.

Who needs to write in STE?
STE was developed to make maintenance documentation easier to read, so authors of such documentation use it when they write these procedures. It is not a language that you can use for “general” writing, for example international correspondence. However, its basic principles (for example, short sentences, one topic per sentence, active voice etc., can be easily adopted.

Why aren’t all technical documents written in STE?
AECMA developed STE to improve the procedures and descriptive text in aerospace maintenance documents. Contracts and standards such as the ATA Specification i2200 and S1000D require the use of STE in the documents they regulate, but there is no requirement for all technical documents. However, STE can improve maintenance documentation in other industries, but it is possible that some documents (for example, those which are analytical, too descriptive, or legalistic in nature) will not get this same benefit.

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THE SPECIFICATION


How can I get a copy of specification?
The specification is available to everybody at no cost. Please refer to the instructions give in the DOWNLOADS section.

How is the specification maintained?
The STE specification is maintained by the ASD Simplified Technical English Maintenance Group (STEMG) which consists of representatives from ASD member countries and non-ASD member countries. In addition, there are associate members representing the STE users (Airlines and Military Organizations).

When will the next issue of Specification be published?
The frequency of issues is usually three years. The current specification is Issue 7, January 2017.

How can I make suggestions to improve STE?
The STE specification needs feedback from its users if it is to continue to improve.
Send your queries to the STEMG. If you have a STE national representative in your country, send the queries directly to him/her. If there is no representative, address the queries to the STEMG Chairman or write to info@asd-ste100.org.
There is a change form in the specification and in this web site. Use it to write your recommendation or change proposals. You may send the change form to the STE National Coordinator in your Country or at info@asd-ste100.org.
The STEMG has a record of all change forms produced and their assessments. The change forms are discussed within the STEMG and, if they are approved, the changes are included in the next issue of the specification. The originators of the change forms are always notified of the assessments and decisions taken. If the change forms are rejected, the reason(s) for the rejection are also explained to the originator.

If I submit a change proposal (change form) for a new word or meaning, can I use it immediately?
No. The STEMG will review the request, and changes will occur in a future issue of the specification if the request is approved.

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WRITING RULES (Part 1 of the specification)

Why does STE not allow “ing” forms?
One of the purposes of STE is to avoid ambiguity, and the use of words with an “ing” ending can easily lead to misunderstandings. “Ing” ending words can have different parts of speech, and can also be used in verbal constructions difficult to understand by non-native readers with a basic English knowledge. Moreover, verbal tenses with “ing” forms imply a duration that is not always clearly expressed. Since maintenance documentation requires clarity, precision and unambiguity, it has been decided to avoid these “ing” forms. There are words with “ing” endings in the dictionary, but these are always nouns, adjectives and prepositions. Examples, "opening (n)", "remaining (adj)", "during (pre)".

Do conditional clauses always need to precede the main clause?
No. This is not always the case, but if you give a condition in a work step that the operator must know before he does the work step, it is often more logical (and safer) to put this condition at the beginning of the sentence. Here, in the example, ” If hot oil touches your skin, it can cause burns.” It is more logical to write the condition first and then the result that follows from that condition.

Why can’t I use passive sentences in procedures?
When we write procedures, we use the kind of language that we would use if we were standing next to the mechanic doing the job. So we mostly use the imperative (or command) form of the verb and write, for example, “Install the component”. If we write “The component must be installed.”, this is not a direct instruction to the mechanic and ambiguity could occur. Procedures must be as direct as possible, not narrative as passive text. In descriptive texts, we can use the active voce as much as possible (i.e. “A” does “B”) and we can use the passive voice when it is absolutely necessary (for example, when we are describing an item that during its operation “receives” the action of another item (i.e. “B” is done by “A”)).

Why can’t I change the language in warnings and cautions. How do I make them compliant with STE?
In some companies, legal departments control the content of warnings and cautions. This is because of perceived liability issues. Technical staff can often work with lawyers to develop language that reduces liability risks and complies with STE requirements. Individual company policy will determine the extent to which this is possible.

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DICTIONARY (Part 2 of the specification)

Does the STE dictionary include all the words that are necessary to write technical documentation?
The STE dictionary has a controlled general vocabulary with sufficient words to write any technical sentence. The dictionary does not include technical names and technical verbs which are applicable to specific projects or industry. We use the STE Dictionary words for basic sentence structure, but we must refer to the writing rules for the recommendations about the technical names and technical verbs and their categories.

How were the words for the STE dictionary chosen?
The criteria used to choose the approved words in the dictionary (the general words) were basically simplicity, flexibility and frequency of use. For example, “do” is simpler, more flexible and much more frequent than “achieve”, “carry out”, or “accomplish”. In most cases, the general words that are approved have only one approved meaning and one part of speech. For example “about” is only approved with the meaning “Concerned with”. You cannot use it to mean “approximately” or “around” (these words are themselves approved and defined). “Check” is only approved as a noun (as in “do a check”), not as a verb (as in “check the lights”).

Can technical names and technical verbs contain vocabulary that is explicitly unapproved in the dictionary?
Yes. Technical names and technical verbs are not listed in the Dictionary. They are defined in the specification by the categories they belong to. If an unapproved word in the dictionary is used with a technical name or technical verb to complete it, it automatically becomes part of that technical name or technical verb, and as such acceptable. This is the only way to use these unapproved words, but it is advisable to limit this use as much as possible.

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SOFTWARE, TRAINING AND MISCELLANEOUS

Is a checker or a software product necessary to write in STE?
No. There are commercial companies who sell software products (such as grammar checkers, etc.) that support STE. STE users are free to use these products bearing in mind that they should not substitute the specification. ASD, the STEMG, their representatives and companies they belong to DO NOT endorse or certify “commercial companies” or providers that sell their software products which they declare to be ASD-STE100″fully compliant”. These commercial companies or providers have not received any authorization to use in their material the ASD Logo, the Copyright and the Trademark of ASD-STE100.

Where can I get STE training?
In November 2013, ASD and the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO signed the Memorandum of Understanding by means of which UNINETTUNO becomes the only board accredited by ASD for the organization, delivery and issuing of the specific ASD-STE100 (STE) certification for training.
Members of the STEMG (who actually do voluntary work on the specification), through their companies, can give authorized STE training which is equal to the one provided by UNINETTUNO
For more information, please contact: info@asd-ste100.org or info@uninettunouniversity.net
Apart from the above, no other trainers are authorized or approved by ASD.

How is STE related to U.S. reading grade levels?
STE simplifies language with words that have restricted definitions and simpler sentence structures. When this is done, the resulting language is simpler and easier for readers of lower reading grade levels to comprehend, but STE does not guarantee compliance with reading grade levels.

Is STE simple to write?
STE was created for the maximum benefit of the reader.
This does not necessarily mean it is simple to write.
To write in STE correctly you must:
- Have a good technical knowledge of the unit that is the subject of your writing.
- Have a good command of the English language.
- Have a good understanding of the STE Writing Rules and its Dictionary.
- Be able to identify which words you can use as technical names and technical verbs.
- Be able to structure thoughts and ideas logically and understand your reader’s needs.

Is STE “baby English”?
No. Its purpose is to describe complex systems and complex tasks in a clear and simple form. This means that technicians with a limited knowledge of English can easily understand what they read and do the work correctly.

Is STE just for non-native speakers of English?
No. Although STE was created to help non-native speakers of English, it also improves communication among English mother tongue.

Does STE eliminate the need for translation?
Yes, if the readers have a basic knowledge of English.
No, if they do not have that level.

If translation is necessary, does STE help the translation process?
Yes, it was one of the original goals when STE was created.

Will STE change the meaning of technical texts?
No. If correctly used, STE will not change the meaning of technical texts, because it requires a high standard of professionalism (both linguistic and technical) on the writer’s part.

Can government employees use STE?
Yes. They can use the principles of STE in documents for which a translation into a non-English language might be required. The discipline of STE would create better, shorter, more concise and more precise documentation files. The primary advantage would be the standardization of government documentation with the maximum benefits of the readers.

Can I speak STE?
No. STE is not intended for oral communication. Nevertheless, a text written in STE is a very useful start for oral computer-based training.

Do readers need training for STE?
No. STE is not a new language. It is a carefully structured version of English which removes confusing word usages and complex sentence structures. Readers with normal English skills will notice immediately that the words and sentences are less confusing or ambiguous with STE. It is not necessary to know STE rules to enjoy the reading benefits of STE.

Can STE be used to teach English?
No. The STE specification is not an English grammar book. Although the language is conventionally controlled in STE, it must not overrule the English language and its grammar.

Can STE be applied to documents other than maintenance documents?
Yes. Although STE was created to improve maintenance documentation, its principles can dramatically improve the reading quality of documentation in any industry. Only 2% of the current STE contents are related to aerospace, the remaining 98% is applicable in all contexts, without the need of adaptation.


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