Technical Documentation and Terminology
Significantly, it is often in technical writing departments that it becomes most noticeable when a company does not carry out systematic terminology work. There are several reasons for this. Technical writing departments have a strong interface function within a company, i.e., information flows into them from a wide range of business areas and, vice versa, technical writing departments in turn pass on their content to many other departments. It then soon becomes clear when different business units have different names for the same things (e.g., their own products).
On top of this, the volume of translations is particularly high in technical writing departments. When working with translators, terminological weaknesses become (painfully) apparent particularly quickly. Combined with a way of working that places high value on linguistic precision and reusability, these factors mean that technical writing departments are often the innovation drivers when it comes to introducing systematic terminology work in companies. And technical writing departments are often subsequently responsible for the terminology work itself, although strictly speaking it is a company-wide multi-discipline task.
Benefits for the Entire Company
Precisely because it is a multi-discipline task, many areas of a business benefit from systematic terminology work – and suffer if terminology is not handled professionally.
This is particularly obvious when it comes to marketing. Companies often have a wide variety of designations for the very same product. This is due in part to errors and inaccuracies caused by employees that result in variants with upper and lower-case letters, hyphens, or missing/superfluous spaces. Then there are obsolete designations, developer designations, abbreviated names, and much more. From a marketing perspective, this compounds the confusion. Risks arise when the designations are made public because, in the event of a dispute, any inaccuracy weakens the distinctiveness of your brand.
Marketing not only reinforces corporate wording and avoids brand risks through clean terminology, but it also brings valuable market knowledge to look at your own designations as well as the terms that are used in the industry. These can then be enhanced in a targeted manner in web content in the form of search engine optimization.
However, other business units and multi-discipline tasks also benefit from terminology work. Terminology is an important pillar of knowledge management. It is used as much for precise communication in projects and product development as it is for the efficient training of new employees. It provides an overview of the current (and outdated) product portfolio and helps to fill the online store accordingly. It facilitates sales and ensures clarity for orders in purchasing. There is virtually no end to the list of benefits provided by clean terminology.
Starting Terminology Work
Nevertheless, many companies shy away from taking the first step toward systematic terminology work because there are seemingly more important things to be done. Since terminology is a multi-discipline task, there are many different interests, ways of working, and goals to reconcile, especially in the beginning.
Also, the powerful terminology tools on the market can make getting started seem more complicated than it actually is. After all, more important than the tools are your decisions about the goals of the terminology work and the sources you want to consider. You can still decide on tools once you have clarified all that and laid the groundwork for a terminology process. In the meantime, a well-maintained Excel file or the terminology functions of your own CCMS will often suffice. All that matters to begin with is that you get started and then keep at it.