Puzzleteile mit der Aufschrift

Terminology management - consistency matters


Let’s assume you want to sell your self-designed garments and open your own company for this purpose. The company name is already in place, the production of the articles is in full swing and now it’s time for your online presence and marketing. Then, at the latest, you should start thinking about the name of your products. Do you prefer jumpers or pullovers? Do you prefer denim or jeans? Do you prefer trainers or sneakers? A uniform corporate language and good terminology management have many advantages – for customers, employees and the balance sheet.

What is terminology management?

Terminology management records, structures and defines a company’s vocabulary systematically and supported by programs – like a company dictionary, so to speak – and thus ensures a uniform corporate language. Company-specific terms or technical terms are collected in a so-called terminology management system (or, simply put, a database) to which all company departments have access. If you work with external service providers, you can also share this database, but more on that later.

What does such a database look like?

Let’s stay with our example from the beginning: for any communication, the terms jumper, denim and sneaker are to be used, and are then added to the database. In addition to this technical terminology, this list also contains the corresponding definitions (a sweatshirt is not the same as a jumper), but also slogans, phrases and product names. But even little things like preferred spellings find their place in the database: for example, should it be “outerwear” or “outer wear”?

Puzzleteile mit der Aufschrift

Source: Brett Jordan – Unsplash

What does a multilingual database look like?

If products are also to be distributed abroad and texts are to be created in different languages for this purpose, corresponding translations can also be added to these terms. When translating the terms, cultural and target group-specific factors are also taken into account so that the texts reach exactly the right target customers.

For successful cooperation with external language service providers, the database can also be shared. This not only makes the translators happy, because this type of glossary takes a lot of research work away, but also the client, when he receives a perfectly translated text.

Why is terminology work important?

As we promised above, we would now like to go into the advantages that good terminology management brings. Below are the top 9 advantages and another point that initially appears as a disadvantage but later turns out to be an advantage:

  1. Higher customer satisfaction: if “sneaker” always means “sneaker”, customers know exactly what to look for. Even if they have questions about a specific product and contact customer support, there will be no misunderstandings.
  2. Consistency: the sneaker will be called sneaker on the homepage, in brochures, in order processes, on stock lists and in all internal communication. This linguistic professionalism ensures a strong external image.
  3. Smooth communication: the company has grown internationally over the years and there are different locations in different countries. If a warehouse in country A has problems with an item and asks for help from the head office in country B, both know directly what the issue is.
  4. Time and cost savings: as mentioned above, a well-maintained terminology database makes everyday life easier for many employees. Lengthy research into specialised terminology becomes superfluous, work gets done more quickly and these efficient processes save money.
  5. Faster familiarisation: if all technical terms are already defined, for example, new employees in technical writing or marketing can be familiarised faster.
  6. Achieving communication goals: with a well-created database that takes cultural and target group-specific aspects into account, you can use texts to achieve exactly the communication goals you have set yourself.
  7. Globally available: every employee can access the database worldwide. This eliminates the need for lengthy and complicated enquiries through ten different channels, which brings us back to more efficient processes and the resulting time and cost savings.
  8. Strong corporate identity: a uniform and individual corporate language allows companies to present themselves professionally and distinguish themselves from competitors.
  9. Higher quality translations: due to the translations of the company-specific terms that have already been determined and approved by the company, these are also used in the same way in technical translations.

And now for the only “drawback”: creating a terminology database can take quite a bit of work.

How is a terminology database created?

Admittedly, the last point is really not an advantage. But as we have seen, terminology work brings a whopping nine advantages. So the score is 9:1.

The good thing is that, firstly, language service providers can help with creating and setting it up and, secondly, the corporate terminology is already there, even if it has not been defined and maintained in a database from the start. It is hidden in all previously published texts, stock lists, product descriptions, brochures, landing pages and so on.

To turn this hodgepodge into a clear database, you start with the so-called terminology extraction.

Laptop auf Tisch mit Pflanze und Kaffeetasse

Source: Dayne Topkin – Unsplash

How does terminology extraction work?

In terminology extraction, or term mining, terminologists work closely with the client (e.g. subject matter specialists).

With the help of special technologies and linguistic know-how, the terminologist sifts through any documents and then creates a terminology list, which is then manually verified.

This is where the customer comes into play again: he checks whether these terms are really the ones he wants to use in his corporate language. Of course, a lot of this is a matter of taste, but you also want to stand out a little from the competition. So if there is an alternative for a term that is already being used by ten competitors, why not use the alternative term and possibly gain a competitive advantage?

If the created and verified terminology list needs to be translated into other languages, translators get to work. The result is then, of course, also checked and approved by the client.

Are terminology lists already available?

In this case, the terminologists clean up and optimise linguistic and terminological aspects. Duplicates and synonyms are removed or merged, outdated terminology is cleaned up, and any objective errors are corrected.

Once the monolingual or multilingual terminology database is in place, it needs to be regularly maintained, updated and cleaned up – or in short: terminology management.

Yes, terminology work is a demanding task, but it pays off in the long run. And as already mentioned, this service is offered within the framework of language services, as it is by us. Contact us – we will be happy to help you with terminology management and to introduce you to this topic with workshops and presentations.