Rule Based Writing

About the topic

The technical communication teams are then trained in using the style guides and templates to ensure they apply them correctly. While templates and style guides ensure a degree of standardization, it must be remembered that teams are made up of individuals, each of whom could have a unique writing style. If left unchecked, individual writing styles often result in documents that differ from each other in writing style. This effect tends to be exaggerated when technical communication teams are spread across multiple countries as colloquialisms and local communication styles affect writing styles.

Also, with increasing globalization, the intended audience could be anywhere in the world. This has two effects: the documentation has to cater to non-native speakers of the source language and/or has to be written in a way that can be easily translated.

All this brought about the need for standardizing the language in terms of sentence structure, phraseology, terminology, and semantics. This gave rise to the use of controlled language, where organizations standardize and restrict the vocabulary used in their documentation. For example, organizations adopted a standard list of terms so that a given thing is referred to by the same term everywhere in the documentation. For example, computer is the term to be used when referring to a personal computer; be it a desktop or laptop.

All of what we have discussed so far - and more - constitutes what is referred to as rule-based writing. 

A controlled language is a natural language, as opposed to an artificial or constructed language. Natural languages such as English or German are languages that are used by humans for general communication. A controlled language differs from the general language in two significant ways:

  1. The grammar rules of a controlled language are typically more restrictive than those of the general language.

  2. The vocabulary of a controlled language typically contains only a fraction of the words that are permissible in the general language.