In support of my upcoming webinar, “Creating Exceptional Customer Experiences Starts With Managing Terminology,” to be held on Friday, May 13, 2011 at 10:00AM – 11:00AM PDT, I am writing today about terminology management. You can register for the webinar here.

Often when I sit down to create a blog post, I first research what other people have written on the topic before I dig in. Today, I sat down to write on post on terminology management. So, the first thing I did was to search Google. Lo and behold I found a fabulous paper by Uwe Muegge called, “Why Manage Terminology? 10 Quick Answers.” I have been following Uwe since I embarked on my journey into global readiness. He is one of the foremost experts on the topic.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m going to consolidate his 8-page paper into a shorter cheat sheet. However, if terminology management is important to you, and it should be, you really need to read the full paper, which you can find here.

10 Questions on Managing Terminology

1. Why should my organization manage terminology?

  • To reduce time-to-market by using automated tools and validated terminology to streamline development, writing, editing, review and translation cycles.
  • To enable consistency of term usage across your entire organization.
  • To share knowledge within and across parts of your organization

2. When is the best time in the product life cycle to start a terminology management project?

During the specification phase, which is the time before the actual development effort for the product or service begins.

3. What type of tools does my organization need to manage terminology?

A customizable terminology database is the core element of a terminology management system. In addition to a database, you should consider a tool that extracts terms from your content. It is important to be able to share terminology information among multiple systems, such as software development systems, authoring/content management systems, terminology/controlled language checkers, translation/machine translation/globalization management systems and CRM/ERP/inventory management systems.

4. What is the concept-based approach to terminology management?

Unlike a dictionary, in a concept-based approach to terminology managment all terms that express the same concept are listed in the same entry. This allows you to group terms by concept and mark variants as “preferred,” “admitted,” or “deprecated/do not use.”

5. How much information should go into a terminological entry?

ISO standards define almost 200 data categories, but list only three as mandatory. The three mandatory categories are term, source, and date. For most organizations, you will need more than three categories, but less than two dozen.

6. What is the most important type of term that is missing from many terminology databases?


7. Why are definitions so important?

The definition helps developers pick the correct term from a range of options, and lets a new employee understand an unfamiliar concept better than any other information in an entry.

8. What standards should I consult for terminology management?

  • ISO 704:2000 Terminology work – Principles and methods
  • ISO 1087-1:2000 Terminology work – Vocabulary – Part 1: Theory and application
  • ISO 12616:2002 Translation-oriented terminography
  • ISO 12620:1999 Computer applications in terminology – Data categories

9. What are the three terminology imperatives for managers?

  • Find what’s already out there.
  • Share data with all stakeholders.
  • Start early and never stop.

10. How do I convince my C-level executives of the value of a terminology management program?

Here are some benefits of terminology management to help make your case to senior management:

  • A comprehensive terminology database frees developers, writers – and ultimately, translators – from the tedious task of researching terms on their own.
  • A term database reduces the danger of multiple communicators coining multiple terms for the same feature, which either goes undetected and causes confusion for the user, or causes unnecessary expenses and delays for terminology harmonization throughout the product lifecycle.
  • Having an approved multilingual terminology database available gives translation buyers more control over the quality of the final localized product.
  • A properly administered terminology program allows organizations to centrally manage and distribute core intellectual capital.

Uwe Muegge’s paper entitled “Why Manage Terminology? 10 Quick Answers.”. Strongly recommended.

Val Swisher
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