The First Draft, and Beyond



Writing the first draft of a standard?

It can be as easy — or as hard — as any writing task.

Some members simply start by reading other standards. If you know the type of standard you plan to develop, be it test method, specification, or something else, you can gain a sense of how a standard generally — and that type of standard in particular — is put together.

Henry Medeiros, Ph.D., who is relatively new to ASTM International and its standards development process, puts it this way: “The place to start is what you feel needs to be standardized.” For the two standard test methods he has worked on, he says, “A standard allows us to compare these things and determine how they relate to each other.”

Think about why your industry needs a standard — a new product or process, an issue with an existing product, or segments of an innovative technology. Summarize that need with a sentence, or a phrase or two. Think of what the standard will, and will not, address. Jot it down and come back to it later. Most of us have ways to approach difficult projects; one of your methods should work here too.

Remember that there’s help available for the standards writing process. 

  • You’ll find standard templates online. The “Template Features” link on that page provides further details about the templates.
  • Form and Style for ASTM Standards is the handbook for writing standards, and it can be found through the link on the Technical Committees page.
  • Kathleen Peters, ASTM’s standards development editor, can help with questions about Form and Style, applying the style to standards, and upfront editing.
  • Finally, training is available for developing and revising a standard. Check the Virtual Classroom for Members information to register for that and for related sessions (WebEx, ASTM online tools) to aid with the process.

(View the infographic for an illustration of the process.)

As your task group begins a new standard, you will want to register a work item and most likely start a collaboration area for your draft. (This can be done after logging on to MyASTM.) Virtual meetings can be arranged (contact your staff manager) to work with your fellow standards writers on the draft without leaving your office.

One often-asked question about drafting and developing a standard is: How long does it take? That depends on a variables such as the length of the standard, complexity, controversy, and so on. It also depends on you and your task group, and the time you can invest in the work. ASTM averages 14-17 months for a new standard and 6-8 months for a revision. If you choose a due date, your staff manager can help choose milestone dates for the process. Milestones include posting the first draft to a collaboration area, the first subcommittee ballot, reviewing the results, revising the draft based on ballot results, and so on.

While the process can be intimidating at first, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Your staff manager, editor, and fellow committee members can help.

Members Gain Access to Compass, CD-ROMs to be Phased Out
Members can now access their free volume and purchased online volumes through ASTM Compass®. Your current subscription and login will be the same, and after you log in, the “Digital Subscriptions” link will take you to your volume(s).

Please note that 2018 is the last year ASTM will offer CDs as a choice for standards delivery. The 2019 Annual Book of ASTM Standards will be available online or in print only.

Issue Month: 
November/December
Issue Year: 
2017