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January/February 2011

What Are Words For, Part II

Understanding the Form of a Terminology Standard

Words and how they’re used are the backbone of any ASTM standard. In the previous installment of Rules&Regs (Nov./Dec. 2010) we acknowledged the importance of words in the standards development process by discussing the development of terminology standards, specifically the first section of Part E of Form and Style for ASTM Standards. We’ll now take a look at the second section of Part E (E7-E18), which focuses on the form of a terminology standard.

Let’s start with the title of a terminology standard. According to E8.1, the title should be as concise as possible, while still identifying the subject covered by the terminology. While “Terminology of,” is the preferable way of titling the standard, “Terminology Relating to” is also acceptable.

Provide information about the field of application of the terminology in the mandatory scope of the standard. The scope should include information about how, when and by whom the terminology will be used.

It is also important to indicate in the scope whether the terminology standard is general or relates to a specialized field. The scope should particularly state where the content of the terminology is limited or restricted. Any such restrictions can also be stated in a Significance and Use section with a sentence that begins, “The terminology is not intended to...”

Section E13 describes the nuts and bolts of putting a definition together. Each term should include the part of speech, definition and, when applicable, a delimiting phrase. The term should be boldface while the part of speech and delimiting phrase should be italicized. Only capitalize words that would be uppercase in normal usage.

While it is best to list terms and their definitions in alphabetical sequence, there may be cases where definitions would be grouped according to a classification system, in order to show the relationships in a logical family of concepts. In cases such as this, place narrower or subordinate terms and their definitions in alphabetical order under the definition of the broader term, as shown in this example from E13.1.1:

soil structure, n — an arrangement and state of aggregation of soil particles in a soil mass.

flocculent structure, n — an arrangement composed of flocs of soil particles instead of individual soil particles.

honeycomb structure, n — an arrangement of soil particles having a comparatively loose, stable structure resembling a honeycomb.

single-grained structure, n — an arrangement composed of individual soil particles, characteristic structure of coarse-grained soils.

Any information that will aid in understanding and using the terminology can be included in a mandatory annex section or a nonmandatory appendix. Examples of such supplementary information include illustrations, commentaries and rationale. Supplementary publications that would have more detailed information on particular terminology should be listed in a bibliography or, if the publications are cited in the text, a references section.

Finally, it can be useful to include a Summary of Changes section at the end of the standard. This section lists changes (such as new and revised terms) since the last issue of the standard and begins with the following paragraph:

“Committee XXX has identified the location of selected changes to this standard since the last issue (insert designation and year date) that may impact the use of this standard.”