Bitesize STE – Essentials 3: Nouns

Bitesize STE is written by Ciaran Dodd, course director for Mekon’s Simplified Technical English (STE) training course.

Since issue 7 of the ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English (STE) specification came out in January, I have read it thoroughly while I updated our two-day Introduction to STE course. As part of the course, we review some essentials of grammar that you have to know to understand the rules of STE. In the next few issues of Bitesize, we’ll look at these essentials and explain why you need to know them in order to write well in STE. We’ll also explain any changes in issue 7, 2017.

In our latest Bitesize STE Ciaran takes a closer look at nouns.

What is a noun?

 STE defines a noun as:

 noun (n): A word that is the name of a person, place, object, idea, quality, or activity.” (2-0-4, ASD-STE100, 2017)

Nouns are an important part of English grammar, mainly because they form the subject of the sentence and there are many rules that relate to nouns only.

There are different types of nouns, for example:

countable nouns

a chair / chairs

uncountable nouns


concrete nouns

a chair / chairs, water

abstract nouns

a promise / promises, honesty

common nouns

a chair / chairs, water, a promise / promises, honesty

proper nouns (names)

Elizabeth, France


Nouns in STE – what you need to know

  1. A word that is a noun, may also be a verb or adjective. ‘Damage’ is both a noun and a verb. ‘Door’ is both noun and adjective. On its own, ‘door’ is clearly a noun. But if I write ‘door handle’, ‘door’ is behaving as an adjective because it is describing what sort of handle I am talking about.
    These pairings are common in English. Sometimes in technical writing, several nouns are put together to describe a main noun: ‘computer network server’. STE calls this a noun cluster (section 2). All the individual words in this noun cluster are nouns. The main noun is ‘server’ while the nouns ‘computer’ and ‘network’ are adjectives because they describe which server we are discussing.
    STE limits noun clusters because they can confuse readers. You need to be able to identify whether words are nouns, verbs or adjectives to correctly apply the rules on noun clusters, as well to be able to correctly use the words in the dictionary.
  2. In technical writing there will be hundreds of different names for parts and processes which STE can’t possibly include in the dictionary. To solve this, section 1 contains the rules on which words you can use, including the categories you can use to approve a word as a technical name. As with technical verbs, if you can put the technical name in to an appropriate category, you can use the word as a technical name. For example, category 1 is ‘names in the official parts information’. Again, you need to know if the word that you want to use is a noun to use these categories.
  3. A noun tells you what the sentence is about. In STE it is especially important that sentences are written clearly so that a user can understand the instruction or descriptive text. Descriptive writing can be particularly complex to follow and so in section 6, STE gives rules to help you to structure descriptive sentences in a logical way. The STE rules use keywords to help the user follow the logic of what you are explaining. These keywords are nouns.
  4. You need to be able to identify a noun correctly so that you can use related parts of speech correctly, such as articles, pronouns and adjectives.

This article summarises some of the main reasons why you need to be able to identify and correctly use nouns. We’ll explore the related parts of speech in the next article.

Looking for Simplified Technical English (STE) Training?

Book your place on one of our Simplified Technical English training courses. Our Simplified Technical English Training course is a practical introduction for those who will use Simplified Technical English (formerly AECMA Simplified English).

The course introduces the philosophy of Simplified Technical English, explains the underlying grammatical principles and gives delegates opportunities to use Simplified Technical English in practical exercises. These exercises can be based on your company’s documentation.

Find out more about our Simplified Technical English Specification: ASD-STE100 training delivered by Ciaran or email

About Ciaran

“Who is your audience and what do they need?”

“How do you meet those needs efficiently, cost effectively and to a high standard?”

Ciaran Dodd has been ensuring that clients address both of these questions using ASD Simplified Technical English (ASD-STE100) since 2002, after being trained by the United Kingdom’s ASD-STE100 co-ordinator in 2001. Ciaran started her career in training at Rolls-Royce, which is where she became involved in training all aspects of writing, including ASD-STE100. After leaving the organisation, Ciaran set up an independent consultancy specialising in communication and learning skills. She has extensive experience of working with major names in engineering; particularly in defence aerospace and the automotive industries.

Ciaran is a qualified trainer, teacher and teacher of English as a foreign language. After completing a law degree at Cambridge University, she taught English in a Chinese university for two years. She has taught all aspects of the English language in commercial and public organisations since 1994.