We describe a technique for studying scattering from subwavelength features. A simple scatterometer was developed to measure the scattering from the single-submicrometer, subwavelength features generated with a focused ion beam system. A model that can describe diffraction from subwavelength features with arbitrary profiles is also presented and shown to agree quite well with the experimental measurements. The model is used to demonstrate ways in which the aspect ratios of subwavelength ridges and trenches can be obtained from scattering data and how ridges can be distinguished from trenches over a wide range of aspect ratios. We show that some earlier results of studies on distinguishing pits from particles do not extend to low-aspect-ratio features. (C) 2001 Optical Society of America.