Simplified Technical English (STE) was developed in the early 1980s (as AECMA Simplified English) to help second-language speakers of English clearly and easily understand technical manuals written in English.
In this blog, the Albion Languages experts explain why Simplified Technical English has become the international standard for accurate and efficient documentation and how it can break down communication barriers and make technical documentation more accessible to engineers.
What is Simplified Technical English?
The first thing to understand about Simplified Technical English is that in this context, ‘Simplified’ means standardised and using a limited vocabulary. It includes a set of approximately 53 technical writing rules and a basic general vocabulary dictionary of approximately 900 approved words.
Technical writing can be complex and difficult to understand, even for native English speakers. Simplified Technical English standardises vocabulary, grammar and style, making procedures easier to understand and follow and eliminating language issues.
The benefits of Simplified Technical English
Text written in STE offers improved readability and translatability. With products – and their accompanying documentation – regularly being shipped to countries across the globe where English is not the main language used, STE can open doors.
The benefits include:
- Reduced ambiguity
Ambiguity refers to the absence of information, leading to imprecision. STE uses an analytical approach to define language so that ambiguity can be kept to a minimum.
- Improved clarity
By reducing or eliminating unnecessary verbiage that doesn’t contribute to the message, the clarity of the document can be improved.
- Improved comprehension
At the core of STE lies the desire to help people whose first language is not English to comprehend technical documentation.
- Improved reliability
By removing ambiguity and being mindful of clarity and comprehension, STE helps to improve reliability.
Standardised Technical English also reduces the volume of text needing translation by approximately 20%. This speeds up reading, leading to fewer questions; it also means work can be completed more quickly and efficiently.
As a result, whether the majority of your audience is made up of native or non-native speakers of English, using STE makes it faster and easier to get your message across without the risk of miscomprehension.
The engineering case
English has become the established language of academic communication and is widely recognised as the international language of science and engineering.
Clear communication is – of course – vital in every industry, but especially so when your goal is to convey important messages without running the risk of them being misunderstood.
As businesses break down traditional geographic boundaries and expand into new territories, the ability of engineers to communicate across national and cultural boundaries becomes even more vital. In these circumstances, STE becomes an essential business commodity.