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Term of the Week: Terminology Management

What is it?

The practice of proactively maintaining dictionaries and glossaries to improve consistency within an organization. Terms are organized and controlled based on accepted standards, with a clear set of guidelines dictating their use within local contexts.

Why is it important?

Terminology management enables correct and consistent use of terms throughout the writing or translation process, or any other effort requiring accurate vocabulary usage.

Why does a technical communicator need to know this?

Words (or phrases) describe products or services; explain a product’s mechanisms; or tell customers how to use a product. Such terms are also used to tag content to support activities such as reporting, search, and personalization.

Technical terms are incorporated into the lexicon based on usage in a variety of content types, including product sheets, material declarations, support articles, informational videos, etc. The governance committee works with content and localization teams to select terms that reflect the organization’s perspective or that of a specific business unit and geographical region. Inconsistent use of terminology can cause confusion or result in legal problems, and, in particularly egregious medically related cases, it can kill[ThinkReliability 2010][Day Translations 2015].

Advantages to carefully controlling terminology include:

  • consistency of voice and tone
  • linguistic quality
  • uniform word usage across an entire organization (including company-specific terms)
  • conformance to legal requirements in particular regions or countries
  • protection of trademarked and registered product names

Careful terminology management can facilitate translation reuse, reduce errors during authoring or translation, shorten revision time, and help streamline the content creation and localization process.

Terminology management systems maintain terms in a central database and allow terminologists to organize approved (and unapproved) terms in multiple languages. These systems define terms and provide editorial guidelines based on pre-established rules.

Governance committees of editors, terminologists, localization experts, and in-country reviewers should define these rules and provide input into usage guidelines. Governance over terms is based both on systematic rules and on this committee’s decisions[Solarek 2013].


About Rebecca Schneider

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Rebecca Schneider's career includes involvement in content strategy, library science, and knowledge management. In 2010, she formed Azzard Consulting, a content strategy services and staffing firm, based on the conviction that there are good, better, and best ways to manage content. She continues and builds on that work with AvenueCX. Rebecca has guided content strategy in a variety of industries, including automotive, semiconductors, telecommunications, retail, financial services, and international development.

Term: Terminology Management



Twitter: @1MoreRebecca