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Simplied English – Vocabulary and Parts of Speech

Simplified English can be described as a controlled language that is a subset of “normal” English. It consists of a simplified vocabulary of about 1,000 words. These words have clearly defined meanings and they contain a set of rules (about 55) for using the vocabulary.

The approved words and rules are not set in stone because the vocabulary does not contain all the words in the English language. If when using Simplified English in their writing a technical writer / technical author comes across words that are missing, then these would have to be added to the vocabulary. The words in the vocabulary are made up from three sources.

  1. Approved Words.
  2. Technical Names.
  3. Manufacturing Processes.

Using these vocabulary words as parts of speech is the major part of Simplified English.

Parts of Speech : Nouns

Within the Simplified English dictionary Nouns are categorised as Approved Nouns or Technical Names. Wherever possible they must be preceded by a definite article (The), a demonstrative adjective (This) or an indefinite article (a). As the Simplified English vocabulary is limited, the same word may have to be used many times. Synonyms must not be used once a word is chosen it must be continued with. Noun clusters must be avoided at all times. In Simplified English noun clusters of more than three words must be broken up by either:

  • hyphenating;
  • rewriting;
  • a combination of both.

Technical names must be hyphenated to show relationship if the noun cluster is four or more words.


Within Simplified English you must only use the Verbs stated in the dictionary. The …ing form of the verb must not be used. Here are a few examples of the verb Drain:

  • Infinitive: To drain
  • Simple future: To drain
  • Simple present: He/She drains
  • Simple past: He/She drained
  • Past participle: He/She drained.

The past participle must only be used as an adjective either with:

  • a noun (The adjusted link is behind the pillar);
  • or after the verbs To Be or To Become (The wires become disconnected from the switch).

The remaining parts of speech (Pronouns, Adjectives, Adverbs, Conjunctions and Prepositions) are used as in conventional English. That is, provided the words in the dictionary are only used as the part of speech indicated.

Having summarised the type of words that make up the Simplified English vocabulary how are these words together to form sentences and paragraphs? There are four types of sentences used in Simplified English:

  1. Statements;
  2. Procedural instructions;
  3. Questions;
  4. Combinations with linking clauses.

The construction of sentences with Simplified English are governed by eight basic rules:

  1. Make instructions as specific as possible.
  2. Do not use abstracts.
  3. Keep to one task per sentence.
  4. Keep sentences short (maximum 20 words).
  5. For descriptive text, one sentence in 10 may be 25 words long.
  6. Do not omit verbs or nouns to make a sentence shorter.
  7. When counting sentence length. A colon (:) or dash (-) count as a full stop.
  8. If a dependant clause is included then it must start the sentence and be separated from the instruction by a comma.

The construction of paragraphs with Simplified English are governed by ten basic rules.

  1. Always start a paragraph with a topic subject.
  2. Each paragraph must cover only one subject.
  3. The maximum length of a paragraph is six sentences.
  4. Use a variety of sentence lengths and constructions to keep the text interesting.
  5. Vary the length of paragraphs.
  6. Do not use one sentence paragraphs more than once in every ten paragraphs (descriptive text only).
  7. Do not overload the text, present new information slowly.
  8. Use a tabular layout of text to help show relationships between complex actions and results.
  9. Try to use the active voice.
  10. Try to end a paragraph with a statement that will form a link with the next paragraph.

The writing of procedures in Simplified English must be in the Active tense. For descriptive text one sentence in ten may be in the passive tense. To change passive to active you can either:

  • change the subject of the sentence;
  • change an infinitive verb for an active verb;
  • change the verb to a commanding form;
  • use the personal pronouns We and You.

Here is an example of the passive and active tenses of the same sentence.

The main landing gear is supported by the side stay. This is Passive because the subject suffers the action of the verb.

The side stay supports the main landing gear. This is Active because the subject does the action of the verb.

A Full stop (.), Comma (,), Colon (:) or Dash (—) are used in Simplified English as in normal English. The other two methods of punctuation, the Bracket (()) and Hyphen (-) have specific rules governing their use in Simplified English.

There are four circumstances when Brackets are used.

  1. To make condensed figure/text references.
  2. To set off text that is not part of the main statement.
  3. To mark text where the separation by Commas is insufficient.
  4. For letters of numbers that indicate items of a list or steps of procedure.

Hyphens are used as a joining signal. There are seven circumstances when Hyphens are used.

  1. Two-word terms used together.
  2. Two-word fractions or numbers.
  3. Adjectives that consist of three or more words.
  4. Terms that consist of a capital letter or a number and a noun.
  5. Compound verbs consisting of a verb and a noun.
  6. Terms in which a prefix ends, with and the root word begins with a vowel.
  7. Terms in which two one syllable words are written together.

Care must be taken when using a Warning or Caution in Simplified English. You must be certain that the right one is being used. A warning or caution must not be a general statement. They must start with a clear and simple command. A brief explanation may be added, if necessary, to give a clear idea of the possible risk involved. A Warning is a danger of injury to people. A Caution is the danger of damage to equipment.

What Is Simplified English?

Information within technical manuals must be: accurate, complete, relevant, concise, convincing, meaningful and unambiguous before it can be of any use. These seven characteristics all make significant contributions to a technical publication but they are of little use unless there is a precise and clear understanding of the contents by the widest range of users anticipated.

simplified englishSimplified English is a subset of “normal” English that technical writers (technical authors in the UK) can use to improve the readability of aircraft maintenance procedures. Simplified English is not “Simple English” as it demands a very sound working knowledge of conventional English and much greater concentration and awareness by the technical writer / technical author. Simplified English does not cover up for a lack of writing skills. It was designed to be easy for the reader to learn and understand so that the text need not have to be translated. However, if translation is required then Simplified English will make the task easier because of its one word – one meaning philosophy.

Simplified English is a controlled language that has a simplified vocabulary (about 1,000 words), with clearly defined meanings, that has a set of rules (about 55) for using the vocabulary. The approved words and rules are not frozen because not all the words in the English language are included. Technical writers / technical authors might come across words that are missing and consequently these words would have to be added to the vocabulary. The vocabulary words are from three sources.

Approved Words

These are words that are in the Simplified English dictionary. Approved words are indicated in the dictionary as upper case. Only the parts of speech and definitions assigned to the approved word can be used.

If a word is shown as a noun it cannot be used as a verb. An example is the word Test, it is used as a noun and not a verb. Do the leak test for the system  not test the system for leaks.

Technical Names

These are words that fit into one of the categories listed in Simplified English (adjectives and nouns). Technical names can be regarded as un-restricted and are names specified and approved by the company or companies involved.

There are four basic rules covering the use of technical names:

  1. Use only as a noun or an adjective.
  2. Use only the official technical name.
  3. Do not use different technical names for the same thing.
  4. If there is a choice, use the simplest, most easily understood alternative.

There are 20 different categories of technical names:

  • Names in official parts information.
  • Names of locations on the aircraft.
  • Names of tools or equipment.
  • Names of materials and consumables.
  • Names of aircraft support facilities.
  • Names of circuits or systems, their parts or locations in them.
  • Names of persons,groups or bodies.
  • Names of technical records.
  • Mathematical, scientific or engineering terms.
  • Navigational terms.
  • Medical terms.
  • Damage terms.
  • Headings and topics used in specifications.
  • Documents, manuals or parts of a manual.
  • Parts of the body.
  • Units of measurement or dial markings.
  • Numbers.
  • Common personal effects.
  • Environmental conditions.
  • Colours.

Manufacturing Processes

These are words that fit into one of six categories listed in Simplified English (always verbs).

  1. One that removes material.
  2. One that adds material.
  3. One that attaches material.
  4. One that changes the mechanical strength, structure and or physical properties of a material.
  5. One that changes the surface finish of a material.
  6. One that changes the shape of a material.

There are two basic rules covering the use of manufacturing processes:

  1. You must use only the official manufacturing process term.
  2. You can only use a manufacturing process as a verb.