To deliver personalized content experiences at scale, you need to chunk your content into small, nimble, reusable components. These components are then mixed and matched at the point of delivery to create something unique for a particular customer.

At the very heart of successful content combination and reuse is standardized terminology. Standardize your terminology so that every piece of content you create uses the same term to mean the same thing. Standardizing terminology also means controlling which terms are allowed and which terms are prohibited.

Why Standardize Terminology?

There are many reasons to standardize terminology before you attempt to deliver personalized experiences. Here are a few:

  • Improves readability
  • Lowers the cost of developing and editing content
  • Lowers the cost of translation
  • Speeds time to market
  • Enforces legal compliance

Improves readability

Standardizing terms across your content components helps your readers have a clear understanding of the content. If you use a variety of terms to describe the same thing, your content may not flow or even make sense to your reader once it is published alongside other content.

Lowers the cost of content development and editing

Standardizing terminology speeds up content development and editing time, which in turn lowers the cost.

Rather than searching for a different word to say the same thing, we just use the approved term. Rather than consulting a thesaurus for synonyms for the word dog, simply using “dog” over and over again saves time thinking and searching.

When the same words are used to mean the same thing, each and every time, it makes the content easier, quicker, and cheaper to edit, as well.

Lowers the cost of translation

Standardizing terminology lowers the cost of translation. Remember that “in the right language” is part of the very definition of personalization. In fact, translating content is one of the earliest forms of content personalization, dating back thousands of years, when both the original source and the translated materials were written by hand.

Content is translated in units called segments. A segment can be an entire sentence, a phrase, or even a single word. When you translate content, your translated segments are automatically stored in a database called translation memory (TM).

Because the TM contains everything you have already translated, when you have new content to translate, you only pay to translate the new segments. If writers say the same thing the same way, every time they say it, you can save a great deal of money on translation.

If, on the other hand, writers get creative and say the same thing in lots of ways – even if the differences are tiny – it gets expensive quickly.

For more information, download my eBook on global-ready content.

Speeds time-to-market

Standardizing terminology across all departments in the organization allows you to take advantage of automated tools and processes. Automation speeds time-to-market. Even without automation, using a shared, consistent set of terms across all departments reduces time-to-market for manual processes.

Consistent content enforces compliance with legal trademarks, service marks

If there is one thing that drives legal departments berserk, it is using trademarks, registered trademarks, service marks, and other legal demarcations incorrectly. An incorrectly used trademark can violate the terms of the trademark. That’s why legal departments get so picky about trademark usage.

What Terms Should Be Managed?

A managed term is a word or a set of words that have a meaning that is unique to your company or brand.

Not every term in your content should be managed. Sometimes it is difficult to decide which terms should be included and which should not. To help, here are some categories of terms that should be managed.

  • Terms that have legal implications
  • Product and brand names
  • Neologisms and portmanteaus
  • Other words that are prohibited
  • Terms that promote inclusivity or that would add bias to content
  • Terms that have variations from common usage
  • Terms that are different in different dictionaries
  • Multiple variations of words that are acceptable to your spellchecker and need to be standardized

What You Should Not Manage

There is one big category of words that should not be managed:

Words that are common and used in a common way.

There is no need to manage a term that is simply a word (or a word cluster) that has nothing special about it. Just like there is no need to use six fonts just because you can.


Words make content fit together — or not. Standardizing terminology ensures that you can use, reuse, and deliver any piece of content to any customer at any time and have it fit into the rest of the content.

Interested in learning more? Buy the book today!

Book cover for The Personalization Paradox


Val Swisher
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