Simplified Technical English and Clearer Documentation through the Thumbs Up Technique (3/3)

As discussed in the beginning of this first article, Simplified Technical English (STE) is generally considered as being of great importance for writing clear and unambiguous content, mainly for user instructions like maintenance manuals. In this series of three articles, Ferry Vermeulen, MSc. will show three steps that will help to apply Simplified Technical English, without going through the full learning curve. By following the steps as described in these articles, it is possible to apply the principles of STE to the documentation you write quite easily.

hand-159474_960_720The technique, called the Thumbs Up Technique, can be considered as a first step to improve the quality of your content by implementing STE, decrease translation costs and create a better user experience. There are three steps that make up The Thumbs Up Technique:

  1. Delete any non-relevant information and determine only relevant information.
  2. Use the online STE-Dictionary and check the approved meaning of words.
  3. Modify your sentences into simple and comprehensible language, based on the suggestions made by the online STE-Dictionary.

In this article, Ferry Vermeulen, MSc. will discuss Step #3.

Step #3: Modify the sentences into simple and comprehensible language, based on the suggestions made by the online ST-Dictionary.

This step contains part 1 of the ASD-STE100 Simplified Technical English Standard: the writing rules. There are two things that help to modify sentences towards STE:

  1. Look at the sentences in the APPROVED EXAMPLE column of the online STE-Dictionary

The writing rules have been applied to all these sentences. Without knowing all 66 writing rules, it is possible to copy/paste commonly used sentences from this column or imitate the way the sentences are built and create your own sentences.

  1. Present the crux of the information and convey it in simple and comprehensible language

When writing in a functional approach to write in a controlled language, there are specific rules for text functions such as instructions, results or warning messages.

Here are two simple examples for functional controlled language rules:

Text function: Instruction

Pattern: Verb (infinitive) + article + object + punctuation mark.
Example: Click the button.

Text function: Result

Pattern: Article + object + verb (present tense) + punctuation mark.
Example: The window “Expense Report” appears.

In both examples the crux of the information is presented and conveyed in a simple and comprehensible language. Keep this in mind when modifying your sentences.

Let’s go back to the example from Step #1. The text has been modified  to:

Do not get the engine oil on your skin. The oil is poisonous. It can go through your skin and into your body. 

As can be seen, fewer words have been used compared to the original text.

Summary: The Thumbs Up Technique is a way to implement Simplified Technical English, without going through the full learning curve. There are three steps that make up The Thumbs Up Technique. Step 3 of the Thumb Up Technique is about modifying the sentences into simple and comprehensible language, based on the suggestions made by the online ST-Dictionary.

Challenge: Modify the following sentence:

Open a new email and after you have added your text, you can click the send button.*

[1] Master thesis in Cognitive Science Linköping University, Department of Computer and Information Science. “Advantages and disadvantages with Simplified Technical English.“ October 18, 2007. http://liu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:16816/FULLTEXT01

[2] AST-STE100. “The official home of ASD Simplified Technical English, ASD-STE100 (STE). ” 2016. http://www.asd-ste100.org/

[3] MAINTworld. “The Role of Simplified Technical English in Aviation Maintenance.”May 06, 2013. http://www.maintworld.com/HSE/The-Role-of-Simplified-Technical-English-in-Aviation-Maintenance


INSTRKTIV 1-7Ferry227x227Ferry Vermeulen, MSc. is founder of INSTRKTIV and now director of business development. INSTRKTIV helps companies and brands to produce their technical documentation. INSTRKTIV stands for content quality, both in the field of usability and liability: The manual as legal document, which not only serves as the keystone in terms of liability but also promotes safe and proper use, is at the core of this. Since 2006 Ferry has been involved in techcomm. Ferry specialises in providing companies and brands knowledge, ready-to-print documentation, capacity and tools & training. His own main specialisation is CE marking and meeting legal requirements.  Over the years, Ferry gained knowledge through training and education on European and U.S. legislation regarding instructions, usability, UX, Simplified Technical English, single sourcing, content management, MadCap Software and SCHEMA software, Information Mapping and minimalism in techcomm.

As my background is in Industrial Design Engineering, everything I create with INSTRKTIV is legally compliant, super user friendly and well designed to help you decrease liablity, get more satisfied customers and safe costs.

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*Challenge Answer

1. Open a new email.
2. Write your message.
3. Select the SEND button.