The first rule executed in an ASL script is the START rule. The START rule runs repeatedly until all of the data input is processed. Data input is processed as it is matched with all of the patterns of a rule.

Patterns are components either of the START rule or of other rules called from the START rule. As data matches patterns, the starting position for the next pattern match moves to the end of the matched data. The next match is tested from this new position and so forth.

The new starting position for pattern matches is permanent when all of the patterns associated with the START rule match. Patterns associated with the START rule include patterns from all of the rules subordinate to START. If the START rule and all of its subordinate rules have executed, the START rule executes again at the new starting position.

If patterns in subordinate rules fail to match, control passes to the immediately superior rule where an alternate, if it exists, is tried. If an alternate does not exist, the starting point for the match is reset to the point when the superior rule executed. Control is passed to the next superior rule and the next alternate is tested. This continues until a match is made or until the START rule does not match.

The DEFAULT rule runs when the START rule fails. The DEFAULT rule contains its own pattern matching. When the DEFAULT rule matches, the starting point is permanently advanced and the START rule is executed. If the DEFAULT rule pattern match fails, the ASL script stops.

The EOF rule runs when the data input is exhausted. It is not necessarily the last rule to execute because other rules might be subordinate.