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The STE standard takes English as its starting point, first because most technical documentation is written in English, and second because English is, after all, the most global language. A disadvantage of this is that English has an enormous vocabulary and relatively complex grammar. A lot of words have several different meanings, and this can result in confusion, high translation costs, poor translations and, when it comes to safety, downright dangerous situations.
After a number of earlier initiatives in the area of “controlled languages”, STE has now become the standard that is used in most industries. It is thus required in aerospace and in defence, but it is also used in ICT, mechanical engineering, communications, and by manufacturers of consumer products.
The advantages of writing in Simplified Technical English:
Broadly speaking, the STE standard consists of two parts: rules for writing, and a lexicon. The rules offer a list of limitations. The lexicon contains verbs and nouns that are or are not permitted.
The rules impose a number of limitations, such as the following, on the use of grammar and style:
The dictionary in the STE standard contains both words that are permitted and thoe that are forbidden. Words that are allowed may be used only with the meaning specified in the dictionary. The word “close” is an example. It can be used only to mean one of the following two things:
The word “close” can be used in the phrase “to close a door” or “to close a circuit”. Thus it can’t be used to mean anyting else (as in, “to close a meeting” or “to close a business”). The lexicon specifies that it is also forbidden to use “close” to mean “near” or “nearby”. A sentence such as “Do not get close to the landing gear” is thus not allowed in STE. An alternative such as “Do not go near the landing gear” would have to be used. There are also clear guidelines in the STE basic vocabulary governing the addition of technical terms. And it contains verbs that writers need in order to describe maintenance procedures. In the STE dictionary there are no words such as “propellor”, “overhead panel”, and the verb “drill”. However, these are indeed allowed according to the STE guidelines. Read more about how to implement Simplified Technical English.