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© 2010 Ugur Akinci
Terminology Management is a vital technical communication function for all corporations. Larger the corporation, more urgent is the need to have a standard catalog of terms and concepts used consistently across all levels of the organization.
Imagine the chaos that would ensue in a company like General Motors, which said to have a catalog of 165,000 service components labels, without managing terminology…
In most companies that I know of there is no terminology management process. If the company has a team of technical writers, “Occam’s Razor” principle is adopted as a substitute. That is, no new unnecessary concepts or terms are invented if one can still communicate efficiently without them. But that’s of course not the same thing as having an official terminology management policy and system in place.
Here are some specific reasons why one should adopt a terminology management system, as formulated by tekom, the German professional association for technical communication and information development (which for some reason uses a lower-case “t” in its corporate name).
4 Reasons to Implement Terminology Management
(1) Prevent Internal Misunderstandings. The project management might order a set of design specs for the “panel” but if the developers think “panel” means only a “circuit board” they may not include the power source in their specs. The results are lost time, wasted project budget, and inefficient project management.
(2) Prevent wrong orders from customers. If you have three products named “Pro-Auto-Rotator”, “Pro-Auto-Revolver”, and “Pro-Auto-Recouper”, there is a high probability that the customers will end up placing orders for the wrong items, inadvertently.
If you have ever visited a residential neighborhood with street names like “Windham Terrace,” “Windham Court,” “Windham Lane,” “Windham Street”, you know the problem…
(3) Prevent wrong translations. Short and clear terms with no culturally-specific (or slang) connotations will always be translated more reliably than terms with such content.
(4) Prevent inappropriate product names for markets. True story: decades ago, General Motors tried to market a new automobile model in Latin America. The model’s name was “Nova.” The car did not sell. Months later someone in GM figured out why. “Nova” means “doesn’t run” in Spanish.
5 Principles of Terminology Management
(1) Base your terminology on concepts.
(2) Include only one piece of data in every data category.
(3) Define your data categories as granular as possible.
(4) Provide synonyms and equivalents of all terms.
(5) Do not define too many mandatory fields.
Click here to read more about these 5 principles.