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How to read ISO publications about PDF

April 2024 by Peter Wyatt (PDF Association)

ISO standards are not tailored to their domain; the same set of rules applies to all ISO standards, regardless of industry or subject.

For those unfamiliar with “ISO-ese” nuances are easily overlooked, which can result in malformed files, erroneous implementations, and problems with interoperability.

Many sentences in ISO-standardized PDF specifications are carefully crafted in an attempt to accurately communicate a very specific meaning. These nuances may be difficult to recognize if the reader does not have a good understanding of how ISO standards are written.

It is therefore important that developers engaging with ISO standards – especially those developers for whom English is not a primary language – understand how to interpret “ISO-ese”.

This article provides some basic information about ISO’s language and offers a short list of things to remember when reviewing ISO standards for PDF.

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