Boeing Simplified English Checker

What Is Simplified Technical English?

ASD Simplified Technical English (formerly AECMA Simplified English) is a writing standard for aerospace maintenance documentation. The standard is defined in Specification ASD-STE100. This type of writing standard is also known as a controlled language because it restricts grammar, style and vocabulary to a subset of the English language. The main characteristics of the Simplified Technical English standard are:

  • Simplified grammar and style rules.
  • A limited set of approved vocabulary with restricted meanings.
  • A thesaurus of frequently used terms and suggested alternatives.
  • Guidelines for adding new technical words to the approved vocabulary.

The objective of Simplified Technical English is clear, unambiguous writing. Developed primarily for non-native English speakers, it is also known to improve the readability of maintenance text for native speakers. ASD Simplified Technical English does not attempt to define English grammar or prescribe correct English. It does attempt to limit the range of English, and many of its rules are recommendations found in technical writing textbooks. For example, SE requires writers to:

  • Use the active voice.
  • Use articles wherever possible.
  • Use simple verb tenses.
  • Use language consistently.
  • Avoid lengthy compound words.
  • Use relatively short sentences.

Other Controlled Languages

While ASD Simplified Technical English is designed for use in aerospace maintenance documentation, controlled languages can be created for other writing domains. Companies in several industries -- manufacturing, mining, oil exploration and software development, for example -- have modified ASD Simplified Technical English or produced their own controlled-language writing standards. The Boeing Simplified English Checker can be modified to support more general technical writing.

BSEC Features

The Boeing Simplified English Checker has the following options and features:

  • Runs on Windows platforms and can be customized for UNIX platforms.
  • Supports interactive and batch checking capabilities.
  • Comes with a single-user web interface and a Microsoft Word interface.
  • Can be customized for other Windows authoring system through a COM interface.
  • Integrates with a full online HTML version of the ASD-STE100 Specification.
  • Includes thousands of preapproved technical names in the aerospace domain.
  • Includes a vocabulary profiling and management system for technical vocabulary.
  • Includes an STE practice feature in the web interface.

The Boeing Simplified English Checker has been in use since 1990. It uses a powerful syntactic parser with a robust grammar of over 400 English-syntax rules. Checker reports are based on full structural parses of English sentences. No other Simplified English checker is as complete or accurate in support of Simplified English requirements.

The Boeing Simplified English Checker analyzes text for compliance with mechanical aspects of the standard. Some of the more important requirements of ASD Simplified Technical English that the checker detects are listed below:

  • Sentence length (20 or 25 words).
  • Paragraph length (6 sentences).
  • Noun cluster length (3 words or less).
  • Missing articles (based on count and mass distinctions).
  • Unapproved verbal auxiliaries (passive, progressive, perfect, modals).
  • Unapproved -ing participles.
  • Multiple commands in a single sentence.
  • Warning, Caution, and Note errors.
  • Correct vocabulary and part-of-speech usage.

The Boeing Checker also catches some typological, grammatical, and stylistic errors that are not explicitly addressed in the STE standard. Among other things, it detects subject-verb agreement errors, double word errors, misspelled words and punctuation problems.

Of course, no controlled-language checker can verify all the requirements of the specification. Some are based on human understanding that current computing technology cannot duplicate. Yet even in these areas the Boeing Simplified English Checker provides assistance. For example, although it is very difficult to detect approved and unapproved word senses, the Simplified English Checker does this in limited fashion.

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