Bitesize STE – Essentials 6: Adverbs

Bitesize STE is written by Ciaran Dodd, course director for Mekon’s Simplified Technical English (STE) training course. In our latest Bitesize STE Ciaran takes a closer look at adverbs.

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.

What is an adverb?

 A word that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb. It answers the questions, “how?”, “where?”, “how often?” and “how much?”.(2-0-4, ASD-STE100, 2017)

Adverbs, like adjectives, modify or describe other words. I like to think of adverbs and adjectives as adding extra information. The fact that both words start with ‘ad’ helps me to remember this definition. Like adjectives, adverbs are an important part of technical writing. Here are some examples that answer the questions in the definition:

  • “Make sure that the pressure decreases quickly.” (2-1-Q1, ASD-STE100, 2017)
  • “Move the levers forward.” (2-1-F10, ASD-STE100, 2017)
  • Always keep the brightness control on the LCD display at maximum.” (2-1-A12, ASD-STE100, 2017)
  • “Turn the control to the fully closed position.” (2-1-F13, ASD-STE100, 2017)


As you can see with these examples, adverbs have three possible positions:

  1. at the beginning of sentences;
  2. at the end of sentences; and
  3. in the middle of sentences.

The adverbs that go at the beginning of sentences usually relate to the previous sentence (thus), or describe manner (carefully), or describe time or frequency (always).

The adverbs that go at the end of sentences typically describe manner (correctly), time or frequency (frequently) or place (aft).

The adverbs that go in the middle of sentences also describe manner, time or frequency and place as well as making another word stronger or weaker (very, almost).

More, most

 If you want to compare or emphasise adverbs, use comparative or superlative forms. For example:

Positive Comparative (compares two actions or states) Superlative (compares all the actions or states in the same group)
Slowly More slowly Most slowly
Fast Faster Fastest
Well Better Best

(Adapted from: )

In STE, adverbs that form the comparative and superlative forms with ‘more’ or ‘most’ are not listed because ‘more’ and ‘most’ are permitted words in the dictionary.

Adjective to adverb

 Some adverbs are easy to identify because they are formed by adding ‘ly’ to an adjective, for example:

  • careful (adjective) carefully (adverb)
  • full (adjective) fully (adverb)
  • tight (adjective) tightly (adverb)

Adverb or something else?

 We know that words that are adverbs can be other parts of speech. Unlike the examples in the previous section, these adverbs look the same for both parts of speech. For example, ‘through’ is permitted as both an adverb and a preposition meaning “into one end or side and out of the other” (2-1-T5, ASD-STE100, 2017). This is unusual in STE, because in most cases a word is permitted in STE with one part of speech. For example, ‘back’ is permitted as an adverb, but not permitted as an adjective. The alternative adjective is ‘rear’.

So, unlike adjectives (see September’s Bitesize STE), these descriptive words are relatively straightforward. Next month, we look at prepositions.

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.