When terminology is a critical factor

When terminology is a critical factor

In our blog post Terminology = brands, quality, time and money you can find out how you can benefit from using consistent terminology and how to get started working with terminology. Today I thought I would write about why terminology management can be a critical factor – even a matter of life and death.

Published 2/23/2015

Consistent, concise and unambiguous

By using consistent terminology and thereby being clear and concise, you not only strengthen your company’s profile and brand but also make life easier for your customers and service units. Think about it – don’t you feel a little uncertain when you read documentation about a product and notice that it sometimes refers to a ‘handle’, sometimes a ‘lever’ and in other places a ‘knob’? Do they mean the same thing, or are these different things? How many calls must be made to support centres around the world because users don’t understand what the documentation is referring to? If someone had thought through the terminology, at least one reason for these problems would have been minimised.

Working actively with terminology also brings advantages for writers and support staff within the business, as well as for translators. Clearer and more consistent original texts make the translation process easier. If the translator can work using the customer’s approved terminology, the translation process will be faster and the quality will be better.


It can sometimes be hard to measure what you get for your money when working actively with terminology. However, you can quickly get an indication of what failing to do so costs – just think about the possible worst case outcome of unclear or inconsistent terminology in terms of lower sales, frustrated customers, greater pressure on support centres, apparatus and software being used incorrectly, the risk of injuries, etc. It’s also important to remember that the costs increase the bigger or more extensive the documented product is – consider a stapler at one of the scale and a nuclear power plant at the other.

Life or death

For companies within certain industries, such as technology, medical technology and pharmaceuticals, terminology can be vital. Many of these companies therefore use strict quality assurance to ensure, in a controlled manner, that they use consistent and correct terminology. This could apply to products such as defibrillators, industrial robots, turbines and insulin pumps. No one would encourage varied use of terminology and artistic freedom in the text for a dialysis machine handbook, for example. The values and settings that apply and the knobs and buttons to be turned and pressed in the right order must be completely clear to care staff, regardless of whether they are reading the handbook in the original language or in translation. Otherwise, patients could die or be seriously injured.

Stacking the odds in your favour

However, there is no need to despair – we live in a world full of terminology and things normally work pretty well. This is because terminology is only one of many components that affect how well a product works, but it’s also a component that you can do something about yourself. We can help you to compile the terminology you already use within your company or create routines and processes for terminology if this would benefit you.

So why not see if you can stack the odds more in your favour by getting a grip on terminology? Contact us today!

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