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Controlled English Rules for Translation

The most pertinent rules for a Translation-Oriented Controlled Language have been selected from the eight rule sets under analysis and are presented below.

Lexical Rules

Vocabulary Usage
  • Only use dictionary-approved words.
  • Use approved words in the dictionary only as part of speech given.
  • Avoid abbreviations and acronyms.

  • Use standardised spelling.

  • Do not use different words for the same concept.

Pronoun Usage
  • Avoid stand-alone pronouns with indefinite reference, e.g. “mine”, “yours” etc.

  • Avoid ambiguous co-ordination.

Verb Form Usage
  • Avoid present participles.
  • For phrasal verbs, always write the verb next to its particle.
  • Use past participles only as an adjective.

Syntactic Rules

Agreement between Sentence Constituents
  • Ensure that there is agreement between the subject and verb in a sentence.
  • Ensure that article and noun agree.

  • Do not duplicate words unnecessarily.
  • Repeat auxiliaries in verb phrases that are connected by “and”.
  • Repeat the head noun with conjoined adjectives.

  • Make sure that modifiers apply directly to the object they are supposed to modify.
  • Expand post-nominal modifiers into full relative clauses.

  • Make sure that adverbs directly modify a verb.
  • Sentential adverbs should be placed at the start of a sentence.
  • Avoid connecting adverbs such as “thus”, “hence”, “so”, “as such”.

  • Avoid Ellipsis.
  • Do not omit definite or indefinite articles before a noun.
  • Do not omit the relative pronoun “who”, “which” or “that”.
  • Do not omit direct objects.

Noun Cluster Size
  • Noun Clusters should not exceed three nouns.

Pronoun Usage
  • Avoid the use of pronouns, especially if they have an indefinite referent.

  • Use single word prepositions.

  • Keep your tenses simple, e.g. simple present and simple past, infinitive, imperative, and future.

  • Use only the active voice.

Segment Independence
  • Make sure that every segment can stand alone.
  • Do not use footnotes in the middle of a sentence.
  • Do not use parentheses in the middle of a sentence.

Semantic Rules

  • Keep to the approved meaning of a word in the dictionary. Do not use the word with any other meaning.

Text Structure Rules

Sentence Length
  • Keep sentences short (no more than 23 words).
  • Avoid writing sentences of four words or less.
  • Avoid overly complex constructions.

  • Use a comma to separate a subordinate clause at the start of a sentence.
  • Separate list items in a sentence with a comma.
  • Do not use periods inside words or abbreviations.
  • Do not use a semi-colon to separate two independent clauses.
  • Do not end a sentence with a colon.
  • Do not use a slash as a word separator.

Pragmatic Rules

Textual Devices
  • Avoid metaphor, slang, jargon, irony.

by Sharon O'Brien

Reference: Excerpt of "Getting Started with Controlled English" from the article “Controlling Controlled English: An Analysis of Several Controlled Language Rule Sets”, Sharon O’Brien, School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies, Dublin City University, Dublin 9, Ireland