Recent Releases on Standards and Standardization 1/1997

The standards reviewed on a regular basis in this column do not usually cover the general topic of standards and standardization. However, there are some newly released documents which should be of interest to those of you who are interested in this topic.

First of all, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has released the 1996 edition of Special Publication 806 (NIST-SP-806), "Standards Activities of Organizations in the United States." Edited by Bob Toth, one of the world's top standards specialists, this document remains one of NIST's most popular publications. It is a guide to mandatory and voluntary standards activity at the Federal level, and by U.S. non-governmental organizations. New in this edition is the inclusion of consortium activity.

The introductory material contains useful statistical information regarding the quantity of standards in effect in the U.S. and the organizations primarily responsible for generating those standards. Mr. Toth also addresses some of the issues of applications of standards and trends in this section as well.

The publication then goes on to list 605 non-government U.S. organizations that develop standards, 90 standards-related programs of the Federal Departments and Agencies, and other sources for standards like Document Center Inc. There is also a section on organizations (consortia) developing informal standards, including a table of identified organizations and acronyms. Listings in the primary sections are in-depth, providing not only address and phone information, but also type of organization, scope, standards development, designation, and activities, keywords, and the like.

The publication is as thick as a phone book and packed with truly useful information. It is the premier directory for U.S. standards activity and we are delighted that this new edition is now available.

Along somewhat different lines, ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) has released the first edition of ISO 7220, "Information and documentation -- Presentation of catalogues of standards." This document provides general guidance on catalogs that provide bibliographical information on standards.

Of note is Section 4: Bibliographic information on publications , which defines relevant bibliographic information which should be included in standards' catalogs and Section 6: Sections of the catalogue , which defines what type of information should be made part of a standards catalog. I also found it personally interesting that the examples used in the Annex as informative guides were all extracted from European publications; no U.S. samples included. Don't let anyone tell you that standards development is not political!

Next is the SES S-1, "Recommended Practice for Standards Designation and Organization." This standard is sponsored and published by the Standards Engineering Society and is designed to provide guidance on the elements and presentation of standards and standards information.

For example, it establishes uniform designations, titling, and formats for standards. It even goes so far as to identify a preferred (standard!) document identifier to be used across all standards developing organizations. Additionally it promotes the use of keywords and abstracting within the standard document itself.

It is a pleasure to see direction given for a consistent approach to such components as reaffirmation and supersession information, as well as promotion of the use of ISBN system. The variation of information and format from organization to organization is a compiler's nightmare, making it difficult for standards' users to work with this body of information as a whole. We encourage all standards' writers to review this standard and work towards adoption of its various recommendations.

The last document for review this issue is the National Information Standards Organization's 1995 edition of ANSI/NISO-Z39.18-1995, "Scientific and Technical Reports -- Elements, Organization, and Design." This particular standard presents guidelines for the elements, organization, and design of the technical reports that frequently are generated within the standards community.

Again, the purpose is to foster uniformity within the information set. This goal is more necessary than ever with the advent of computer-aided information storage and retrieval. For both standards and technical reports, consistency of document meta-data is a top priority in the creation of advanced electronic archives.

The NISO document is most ambitious in that it not only addresses elements and format, but also principles of effective communication for textual, visual, and tabular material. While shying away from actually establishing a technical writing standard, it does provide an extensive annotated bibliography of books about technical writing and language usage.

Additionally, the standard supports the electronic publication of paper copy, while acknowledging the production, storage, and retrieval of electronic documents. While it defines elements for technical reports, it does not contain the kind of detailed DTD (Document Type Definition) that we have seen in the more recent editions of the military specifications in the TMSS class. However, report elements are well organized in Table 1, and a set of nine figures provides useful samples of various covers, title pages, and table of contents pages.

These documents are all strong support documentation to fill the gap left from the cancellation of the many military specifications and standards defining documents and their components. We can attest to the value of uniformity with the information set, made more urgent by the rapid migration into electronic formats. Each of the resources above provides useful information during this migratory period.

Claudia Bach is President of Document Center, Inc., an information delivery service based in Belmont, CA. The company has complete collections of specifications and standards from both government sources and industry associations. She can be reached by phone at (650) 591-7600, by fax at (650) 591-7617, or by e-mail at, or see  

For more information on standards see Document Center's Home pageWelcome to Document Center . This article was originally published by the Society for Technical Communication. If you'd like to know more about this association for technical writers see: