English teachers are fond of saying that English is the world’s easiest language to learn. That’s probably an overstatement: English might lack gendered nouns and complex casing, but it has tens of thousands of synonyms that confuse non-native speakers to no end, not to mention a slew of idiosyncrasies that provoke mirth and befuddlement in equal measure.
Still, no one seriously disputes that English is the world’s indispensable language. It’s the language of international business (Es tut uns leid, German) and culture (pardon, French) — and it’s spoken fluently by more souls than any other tongue (抱歉, Mandarin).
English’s greatest strength — its indispensability — is also its greatest weakness. Hundreds of millions of people speak English as a first language, but billions must know enough English to accurately (and safely) read technical manuals and basic business communications.
A Better Way to Speak and Write English
That’s where Simplified Technical English (STE) comes in. Formally known as ASD-STE100, Simplified Technical English is a stripped down, hollowed out version of the world’s best-known language. It features fewer than 1,000 words and a set of easy-to-follow syntax and vocabulary rules: everything you need, nothing you don’t.
Aside from the skimpy vocabulary, the most important thing to understand about Simplified Technical English is that its writing rules are designed to minimize ambiguity. Unlike regular English, where one word can have many meanings, Simplified Technical English words have rigid definitions. For instance, the word “close” can only be used as a verb, as in “close the circuit” or “close the door,” but not “move close to the door.” “Oil” can be used only as a noun, as in “change the oil,” but not “oil the hinge.”
It’s starting to make sense, right?
If you’re not yet convinced that Simplified Technical English can help your organization — and your international customers — communicate more effectively, these five arguments just might do the trick.
- Clear Writing With Reduced Ambiguity
Simplified Technical English is all about clarity and directness. STE sentences are designed to be interpreted in one fashion, and one fashion only. This is a huge boon for manufacturers that need to ensure their instruction manuals or safety directives are taken at face value — not open to interpretation due to unclear wording or unnecessary verbiage.
- Big Savings on Translation Costs
Simplified Technical English is easy for non-native, non-fluent English speakers to understand. There aren’t any big or unusual words to keep straight, nor are there any idioms (figures of speech) that only make sense in certain geographical areas or among certain cultural groups. As such, virtually anyone with basic English knowledge can parse Simplified Technical English. When your entire workforce or customer base understands your instructions or written directives, there’s no need to hire a pricey translation firm (or an on-staff translation team) to make your words legible.
- Improved Workplace Safety
Clarity and legibility aren’t always simple matters of convenience. Sometimes, they’re matters of life and death. When hazardous equipment or environments are in play, it’s critical that technical instructions are taken literally, down to the last letter. Simplified Technical English dramatically reduces the likelihood of misunderstanding.
- Less Time Lost to Maintenance
Simplified Technical English cuts to the heart of the matter. Since it’s a fixture in technical manuals pulled out during maintenance periods, that’s a major boon for bean-counters who know that there’s an inverse relationship between productivity and maintenance time. By reducing maintenance time down to the bare minimum, Simplified Technical English helps users focus on what matters most — the bottom line.
- More Efficient Writing & Communication
For companies looking to cut costs wherever possible, STE’s brutal efficiency is a godsend. By reducing the amount of exposition necessary to communicate the same number of ideas, Simplified Technical English keeps writing, editing, and publishing costs in check and empowers decision-makers to focus on what they do best. And, if employees and users have to spend less time reading and interpreting STE instructions, so much the better.
Does your organization use Simplified Technical English? Why or why not?