What Are Words For?
The Proper Use of Terminology in ASTM Standards
On one of his early albums, comedian Steve Martin sagely noted that “Some people have a way with words while others ... er, uh, not have way, I guess.”
Having a way with words — that is, knowing precisely what words mean and how words are being used — is essential for developers of ASTM standards. This is why Part E of Form and Style for ASTM Standards focuses on the development and use of terminology in standards.
According to Part E, ASTM standard terminology is written to promote three objectives:
An important distinction made in E2.1 is the difference between definitions of terms and definitions of terms specific to a standard:
Definitions of Terms and Definitions of Terms Specific to a Standard appear in separate subsections within the “Terminology” section of a standard. While definitions of terms would appear in a committee’s general terminology standard, definitions of terms specific to a standard, due to their limited application, would not.
The most important decision a committee may need to make regarding terminology is when to develop a definition and when this is not necessary. Section E3 offers guidelines in both directions. E3.2 and its subsections note that a definition should be written:
E3.3, on the other hand, details when not to develop a definition:
Once a committee has decided to write a definition, it will need to understand the form the definition should take; Section E4 describes this. A good definition describes the essential characteristics of a term and does not include irrelevant details. The order in which a term and the elements of its definition should appear is also described.
The elements of a term (including abbreviations, symbols and parts of speech, among others) are fully described in Section E5, while Section E6 describes the use of symbols, acronyms and abbreviations as terminology within a standard.