March 2000

March SN Contents


“Search for Individual Standards” Page:

To find out if a standard is already developed in the area you want.

“Request for the Development of a New Standard” Form:

Form and Style for ASTM Standards

Interactive Standards Development Forums

Standards Writing 101: New Standards

by Felicia Quinzi

Your industry or service sector needs a new standard, But where do you begin to get it written and approved?

WRITING A NEW STANDARD can seem a daunting task, especially if you have never before thought of yourself as an author. However, ASTM, a consensus organization that wholly promotes collaborative efforts, offers many tools to get you started and see you through until the end or, at least, until someone votes negative.

What You Will Need:

How Good Is My Idea?

The first step is to introduce the idea for a new standard to the appropriate subcommittee. The concept must fall under the subcommittee’s scope, first and foremost. The subcommittee should agree that the proposed activity is worthwhile, feasible, and needed. More importantly, verify that the standard you hope to write does not already exist under the jurisdiction of another committee or organization. Avoid duplication of effort and jurisdictional disputes!

To do this, do a keyword search of all approved ASTM standards on the ASTM Web site (see “Search for Individual Standards” in the ToolBox). If a standard turns up that sounds similar to the one you are about to write, contact your staff manager for further information. In addition, your staff manager can assist in finding out whether your or another committee has a work in progress on a similar or related subject by searching draft standards under development in ASTM.

New Standard Development Form

The best way to ensure that an activity is appropriate is to complete the “Request for the Development of a New Standard” form (see ToolBox).

The subcommittee having jurisdiction over the proposed project should approve the development of the activity and the subcommittee chairman should subsequently sign the form. If you are between meetings, the chairman may sign the form on the assumption that there will be approval of the activity at the next meeting.

Filling out the form will trigger the crucial steps to be taken, such as (1) establishing a well-defined scope or objective; (2) identifying those who have expertise in a given area; (3) identifying those who need to be made aware of, or invited to participate in, a given activity; (4) identifying the end users; (5) creating a task group representing all interests; (6) enabling the subcommittee to track a task group’s efforts; and (7) publicity.

Ideally, the task group would be formed under the subcommittee with a manageable number of members (approximately four to six) representing a balance of interests. Should this task group need to look outside of the ASTM subcommittee or committee for expertise, other members or individuals should be invited to participate.

NOTE—Task group members are not required to be members of ASTM.

Joint Task Groups

Coordination and cooperation are two of the most important elements of standards development and maintenance. By coordinating openly with other members, a task group can bring together key stakeholders and receive input at the start of a project, rather than later on when much time and energy has been expended.

Furthermore, when a subcommittee identifies other subcommittees that should be represented on the task group, the subcommittee chairman should inform his or her staff manager. The manager will initiate coordination between the two or more subcommittees. Then, additional members will join the task group to represent the interests of the committees to which they belong. We call this a “joint task group.” This could also be the case for representatives from organizations other than ASTM. The joint task group is a vehicle for individuals to communicate their interests.


If you are uncertain as to whether another committee or organization is interested in or may be impacted by your activity, publicize! Your staff manager can assist you with contacting the ASTM Corporate Communications Department.

How Will the Standard Be Used?

Doing the research up front will save time and energy. Ask questions of your subcommittee, such as: “Is it possible that the standard will be cited in a building code?” “Will a government agency or regulatory body adopt the standard?”

Start Writing

Start by writing “Draft #1” at the top of your first page. It is likely that there will be more than one or two drafts of the document and it is always interesting to keep track.

What Kind of Standard Am I?

Now is the time to reach for your Blue Book (Form and Style for ASTM Standards) and dust it off. Review the definitions of test method, specification, practice, guide and classification. By determining which type of standard you are writing, you will know which mandatory sections must be included in your document.

Once you know which sections you need, you can start with an outline, such as (in the case of a test method):


    -Scope—purpose of the standard, general information;

    -Significance and Use—how the standard is to be applied, specific information;




    -Keywords for indexing purposes.

Using The Internet

ASTM encourages the use of the Interactive Standards Development Forums, a Web-based standards development tool to which you have access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Through the Forums, a task group chairman can designate who has the ability to review and comment on a draft. Headquarters assigns each task group member a password when a Forum is created. The task group members view not only the draft, but also each other’s comments.

Your First Draft Goes To Ballot

A first draft typically goes to a subcommittee ballot and receives its first round of comments and negatives. This is actually very positive and productive for the task group.

If, as mentioned above, a joint task group is working on the draft because another subcommittee needs to be involved, an “informational ballot” is an option. In addition to balloting within the subcommittee with jurisdiction, a different subcommittee may receive an informational ballot. Comments received on the informational ballot are handled in the same manner as a negative or comment on the official ballot.

A Standard Is Born

Maybe it seemed as though there were a few obstacles. Perhaps you thought there was too much paperwork. However, the draft is approved and published as an ASTM standard. The draft will have become a consensus document created, refined, and agreed upon by the experts in the industry. The standard can be used worldwide in the international marketplace and adopted by countries in places where you have never been. We think that it’s worth it. //

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Felicia Quinzi is a manager in the Technical Committee Operations Division.