July/August 2003

Technology Trends

Controlled Languages and Speech Prompts

By Dr. James A. Larson

”Welcome to the Ajax speech application. It is possible to perform any of several actions at any time during this application, including the common actions of asking for help, transferring the call to an operator, stopping the application and returning to the main menu.”

The sample prompt above is too long and confusing for most users. However, by using a controlled language, you can improve the prompt for your customers.

What is a controlled language?

A controlled language is a sub-language of English, or other widely spoken language, with specific grammar, style and vocabulary rules. Many companies, industries, and governmental agencies design controlled languages for writing all types of public information, such as technical manuals and contracts. Controlled languages improve readability and comprehension by using: