Reasons to use Simplified Technical English ASD-STE100TM (STE) 1: Good practice

In this series of articles, Ciaran Dodd, our Simplified Technical English (STE) trainer, looks some of the benefits of STE.

Effective writing in business and technical writing is about communicating information clearly, accurately, and concisely. Easy…isn’t it? Apparently not. The good news is that there is agreement on how to write effectively.

I focus solely on training people to write clearly, accurately, and concisely. As well as STE training, I deliver training for non-technical writers, particularly those writing for the public, so I know first-hand that these principles work for everyone. For me, the key principles that can transform your writing are:

1. Use words that are familiar to your audience and explain any technical or unusual terms.
2. Avoid long noun strings (three or four nouns which modify the main noun, such as road accident research centre).
3. Use verbs instead of making them in to nouns (writing ‘We decided’ instead of ‘We made a decision’).
4. Use the active voice instead of the passive voice. (‘A did B’ rather than ‘B was done by A’)
5. Keep your sentences short, and express one idea in a sentence.

The STE rules describe all of these principles. The difference is that STE specifies these principles in more detail. For example, the STE specification requires sentences of 20 words for procedural writing and 25 for descriptive writing. It specifies the active voice only for procedural writing. For descriptive writing, STE prefers the active voice but permits limited use of the passive voice.

This level of precision is what marks STE out as different to a style guide. For example, STE restricts writers to certain verb forms and to a maximum of three nouns in a cluster or noun string. STE also restricts the types of words than you can use. There are rules in section one that specify how you can use words (including words that are specific to your company or industry). There is also a dictionary of approved words in the specification.

It is this last aspect of STE that may be more difficult to apply, but the rest of the writing rules clearly describe what is good practice for effective writing. For me, that alone is a good reason to use STE.

In the next article: Reasons to use Simplified Technical English ASD-STE100TM (STE) 2:
A regulatory or contractual requirement.

Looking to develop your Simplified Technical English skills?

Join us on our next two-day Introduction to Simplified Technical English ASD-STE100TM course on 10-11 March 2020.

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