Controlled English

Subject: Controlled English
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- FS -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Fri, 31 May 1996 16:37:00 +0800

> Martyn - please tell us more about "Controlled English". It sounds both
> useful and hideous.
> Chris Hulin Tel: + 357 2 376671
> Head of Documentation Fax: + 357 2 377123

Here's a message I posted in February:


tuija -dot- isomursu -at- ntc -dot- nokia -dot- com asked about the pros and cons of simplified

Tuija, I haven't used SE myself. There is a similar technique called
Controlled English, which has been used by Kodak, NCR, Xerox and others.
I read about it in 'Writing Better Computer User Documentation', by
R. John Brockmann (Wiley) 1990 ISBN 0-471-62260-5 -- see pp 112 -113.
He refers to a paper by Gayle Gustafsen, "Controlled English for Inter-
national Audiences".

Documentation written using CE features:

- a limited common vocabulary (approx 300 - 350 words)
- an additional specialised vocabulary containing special terms, product
& tool names, etc)
- a dictionary defining all the words in the vocabularies
- simple writing style and strictly consistent punctuation

CE was originally developed to make translation much simpler, and for
use by people for whom English wasn't their first language. However it's
said to make manuals more useful for English speakers, too.

If you can get hold of someone's common vocabulary, this will give you a
head start on deciding which of your words need further definition (your
'specialised vocabulary').

Are your manuals written for people whose first language is not English?
If so, there are some words that would normally be considered OK, but
should still go in your list of defined words because they have a special
meaning separate from the common meaning. For example, they may not
realise that simple English words like 'enter' and 'disable' have special
meanings when applied to software.


Stuart Burnfield (slb -at- fs -dot- com -dot- au) Voice: +61 9 328 8288
Armpit of Documentation

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