People ask, "What is better about the TechScribe term checker compared to other software for a controlled language?" TechScribe cannot answer that question. To evaluate software, you must first specify your requirements. Then, compare the software against your requirements.
To help your team to choose the best software to solve your problems, refer to the Software Evaluation Guide.
To use a term checker for a controlled language, your team must add a project's technical terms to the software. For example, in ASD-STE100 issue 6, the word base is unapproved as a noun and as a verb. Possibly, documentation uses the term base deck. To give a correct evaluation of text, the software must 'know' whether the term is approved or unapproved. "To be effective, they [language checkers] also need to contain your in-house Technical Names and Technical Verbs. If your Technical Names and Technical Verbs are not in the checker, you will get constant 'unknown word' messages" (www.asd-ste100.org/software.html).
To evaluate the TechScribe term checker without adding project terms, do one of these:
- Deactivate 'Rule 1.1. Use approved words [deactivate to ignore unknown terms]'. The term checker will not give warning messages for unknown terms. Possibly, the term checker will give more incorrect warnings ('false positives') than when all the terms are specified, because the term checker does not 'know' the correct part of speech for each unknown term.
- Change all the project nouns, adjectives and verbs in a document to ASD-STE100 approved nouns, adjectives, or verbs. The document will lose its meaning, but you will be able to evaluate the results of the term checker.
A minimum of one person who evaluates the software must have a good knowledge of Simplified Technical English. Without that knowledge, your team will probably struggle to know whether the software finds all errors and ignores all the correct text. Most language checkers for a controlled language give some incorrect warnings. Part of your evaluation is to decide whether the frequency of incorrect warnings is sufficiently low. Refer to ASD-STE100 issue 6.
Make sure that technical writers want to use STE
Before you buy a term checker, make sure that the technical writers in your organization want to use STE.
Many technical writers do not want to use a controlled language, because they think that a controlled language restricts their creativity. At the Technical Communication UK Conference in 2010, 39 technical writers were asked whether they use a controlled language such as STE. One person lifted his hand. Then, the technical writers were asked who wanted to use a controlled language. The person lowered his hand. Not one person wanted to use a controlled language.
The term checker is different to other software for a controlled language
These are the primary differences between the TechScribe term checker and other software for a controlled language:
- The design is not a 'black box'. The structure and the methods are explained on this website. The term checker uses rule-based pattern-matching, not statistical methods or 'artificial intelligence'.
- The term checker uses LanguageTool, which is open-source software. LanguageTool uses Java. Thus, you can use the term checker on all operating systems on which Java is available.
- There is no 'vendor lock-in'. The language rules are in XML. Your team can change the rules, or you can buy customization services.
- The term checker is a basic product. It does not have many of the features that the competing enterprise software has. TechScribe's emphasis is on the language problems that technical writers have when they write Simplified Technical English.
Some language checkers for a controlled language have the features that follow. The TechScribe term checker does not have these features:
- Reports for managers
- Readability statistics
- Authoring memory
- Terminology management.