What’s the Word?

Terminology is an essential part of creating ASTM standards, and the Terminology Dictionary aids this work.
Cicely Enright

ASTM’s Blue Book, Form and Style for ASTM Standards states that all technical standards should include a terminology section. The requirement advises you to “keep it simple” and use a dictionary definition when possible, but putting a small glossary into your draft standard may seem daunting.

Luckily, the ASTM Terminology Dictionary — free to committee members — can help you wrestle a new terminology section into shape.

The dictionary collects all ASTM terms and definitions into one resource — a total of more than 93,000 terms. It’s updated monthly. To find it, log on to “MyASTM” and go to “MyCommittees;” the Terminology Dictionary is under the “Additional Resources” of “My Tools.” (ASTM terminology is also available free to Compass® subscribers, who can link to alphabetical term lists on their main page.)

“Any terminology group should look at terms defined by other ASTM groups,” says Harvey Hack, Ph.D., P.E. Hack, who serves on several ASTM committees, is a former chair of the ASTM board of directors and a consulting engineer for Northrop Grumman.

The Terminology Dictionary search is easy to use. You can search by term, committee and terms, or committee and terms/definitions. You can also view alphabetical and numerical term lists. The “Search Tips” link will help you get the most out of your search.

Veteran ASTM members know why terminology is important. “We need to be sure that everyone who uses standards is speaking the same language,” says Richard Nester. Producers might lean in one direction for a definition and users in another, he says, “If it’s in writing and agreed to by the membership, that’s the one to use.” Nester is general manager of quality assurance and customer service at Wheeling-Nisshin, and chairman of the editorial and terminology subcommittee (A05.18) that is part of the committee on metallic-coated iron and steel (A05).

Terminology — terms and their definitions — are invaluable for interpreting information, as Hack puts it. Hack, whose committee work includes maintaining the joint G01/NACE International terminology and acronyms standard (G193), has an additional recommendation, “Try to harmonize definitions with other groups doing similar work.” The end result will be better.

And remember to take advantage of the Terminology Dictionary.