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Write with Simplified Technical English (TATM Series)

Jul - 2021 | Written by Alexander Caves

Simplified Technical English (STE) makes your texts more effective in English and helps us to translate your content, saving you money!

STE is a simplified, controlled version of English that promotes clarity and accuracy. We strongly recommend employing STE in your technical authoring.

Welcome to our blog series on Technical Authoring with Translation in Mind (TATM). In this series we provide you with useful tips for writing technical texts that are going to be translated.

 

What’s in this Article?

 


What is STE?

Simplified Technical English is officially named ASD-STE100. Originally developed for use in aviation, it is now employed across the science and technology sectors to make texts more accessible to readers who may have a limited knowledge of English.

Using STE helps you to express yourself in a consistent and unambiguous manner. Simplifying your language will minimise confusion, especially when you are guiding the reader through a complex and potentially dangerous procedure. This helps all your readers, regardless of their language skills.

The ASD-STE100 guidance is clear, easy to follow, and only consists of two parts:

  • Part 1 – Writing rules
  • Part 2 – Dictionary of controlled vocabulary

You can request the latest issue of the ASD-STE100 Specification to make sure you are up to date.

STE Writing Rules

The STE writing rules advise you on how best to set out your content. The rules include guidance on parts of your writing such as noun phrases, verbs, sentence length, and how to structure ‘procedures’ (your step-by-step instructions for the reader), among others.

Here are a few examples of STE writing rules:

Rule 1.11: Do not use different technical names for the same item.
Rule 3.6: Use only the active voice in procedural writing. Use the active voice as much as possible in descriptive writing.
Rule 4.2: Do not omit words or use contractions to make your sentences shorter.

STE Dictionary

The STE dictionary provides a list of approved words, their meanings and examples of how to use them. The idea is that all words have a distinct meaning and should not be used to express a different meaning, even if this different meaning is acceptable in standard or colloquial English.

You should use only the approved words in your writing, except where the dictionary permits otherwise. Exceptions include technical names and technical verbs that may be specific to your field of study or industry.

Take a look at this example of an STE dictionary entry:

Word
(part of speech)
Approved meaning/
ALTERNATIVES
APPROVED EXAMPLE Not approved example
build (v) ASSEMBLE (v) ASSEMBLE THE UNIT. Build the unit.

 

The above example recommends the use of the verb ‘assemble’ where you might say ‘build’ in colloquial English.

 


Why use STE for Translation?

Writing using Simplified Technical English is beneficial if you are creating technical texts that you will need to translate for the non-domestic market. The more you optimise your texts for translation with STE, the more consistent and standardised they will become. This should increase your savings during translation.

Free Glossary

We encourage our clients to develop a list of English terms and their translations so that important concepts are translated consistently within and across multiple texts.

Take the German word Schotter for example. It can be translated into English as:

gravel / grit / broken stone / crushed stone / crushed rock / macadam / road metal

Such a variety of synonyms frequently exists when translating out of English too. That is why it is best to decide on your preferred word, so that it is used consistently throughout your texts and marketing material.

In the STE dictionary you already have one half of this bilingual glossary for the most frequent words, for free!

Of course, there will be concepts you need translating that do not appear in STE, such as the above example. To ensure that all of your most important technical and marketing concepts, such as machine names and marketing slogans, are not left out, we work together with clients and linguists to create a specialised termbase.

The termbase is employed in the translation process to make sure that the translator always uses your preferred terminology.

Higher Repetitions

Our clients benefit from Translation Memory (TM) savings. This means that the more they use our services to translate similar texts, the greater the savings they can make. Repeated or similar sentences found in their previous texts and their new project allow us to offer our clients a discount. Find out more about TM in How we translate on our homepage.

Using STE will help you to maximise TM savings because it steers multiple authors to write in a very uniform manner. Uniformity is perfect for TM because it makes the likelihood of repetition much higher.

It is rare that any two authors write in exactly the same way. Even one author might change writing style over time and across multiple texts. Take the below sentences as an example of how the same command can be expressed differently:

Warning: Switch power off once the fan has stopped.
Warning: Disconnect power only when the fan has stopped.
Warning: Wait until the fan has stopped running before switching off the power.
Warning: Do not disconnect power if fan is running.

You pay the highest prices to translate each of these FOUR different sentences. However, if you use the same sentence four times, you pay full price for only ONE and a heavily discounted rate for the remaining three.

Note: You will still pay a small rate for repeated sentences because the linguist needs to check if the sentence is correct in the context on the page. For example, they need to check references to nouns in surrounding sentences. This is especially true in languages with multiple noun genders or that have a wider range of verb conjugations than English.

TM-Optimised Segmentation

You now know that higher repetitions equal greater savings. You can further increase these savings by using STE to optimise your texts for segmentation. Segmentation is how translation software separates text into more manageable chunks. The software tries to split text into individual sentences or segments. It is these segments that are used by the Translation Memory (TM) to identify repetitions.

Typically, each sentence is a segment. The longer the sentence, the less likely it is to match previous, similar sentences. This means fewer repetitions and fewer TM savings.

One simple ASD-STE100 rule helps you optimise your segmentation to obtain those savings:

Rule 4.1: Write short and clear sentences

Write short and clear sentences without ambiguity or omitting words, such as ‘a’ or ‘the’. This increases the volume of repetitions and matches, making your budget for translation go further!

We encourage you to look at the rules in detail for the best guidance and examples.

Translation Accuracy

STE helps you to avoid any ambiguity when writing. A good example is when you have a noun cluster (several nouns together). The example below comes from the ASD-STE100 Rule 2.2:

Unclear: Main gear door retraction winch handle.

The meaning of this might not be clear to all. Rule 2.2 recommends ensuring clarity by inserting hyphens between words to show how they function as one unit, for example:

Clear: Main-gear-door retraction-winch handle.

Making your writing clear like this helps the translator (and the readers of your original text) to understand exactly what you mean. This results in fewer translation errors and a more accurate end product.

Check out the other ASD-STE100 rules for further guidance on writing clearly.

 


Your Next Steps

So what should you do next?

Consider using STE

STE improves both your English text and onward translation by The Word Hub. It makes your text more accurate and understandable to the reader. This is safety critical for technical content describing potentially hazardous processes where any error could result injury or fatalities. And it saves you money!

A benefit of implementing STE is the tangible benefit of reduced translation costs. As companies seek trade globally, language requirements increase, requiring more translation. STE gives you the best possible starting point for onward translation. Ultimately, this benefits your global audience.

Moving a whole authoring team across to Simplified Technical English can be a daunting prospect. Fortunately, we can assist with our workshops run by our STE professionals.

Hold one of our STE Workshops

If you would like to start using Simplified Technical English but need a bit of guidance, book a workshop with us.

The Word Hub workshops can take place at your site or online, led by our dedicated STE trainer. The workshop is designed to introduce technical authors to STE and provide them with the knowledge to start implementing STE within their own authoring process and to optimise their texts for translation.

Looking for more tips on technical authoring with translation in mind? Read the next article in our series.

Read our next Article

Coming soon – the next article in our series on Technical Authoring with Translation in Mind (TATM) in which we take a look at the importance of glossaries and term bases.

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