Module: Terminology

About the topic

The growing specialization in science, technology and business, not only leads to a rise in the specialized technical knowledge, but also to an increase in the corresponding technical vocabulary (terminology). To communicate technical content clearly and unambiguously, a defined and consistently used terminology is necessary.

Terminology is an important quality factor in technical writing, because the use of unclear, wrong or inconsistent terminology can have costly negative effects:

  • The readers (end users, suppliers, employees from other departments) fail to understand the technical documentation correctly, or do not understand it at all.
  • The translation of the documentation is made more difficult.
  • Electronic translation tools (mainly translation memory systems) cannot be used efficiently.
  • The product and corporate image suffer.
  • Vague terminology can have legal consequences.

The basic prerequisite for a terminologically consistent, standardized creation of documentation is the compilation, management and application of a terminology database in at least one language. This should contain the relevant terms, the terminology, notes on the use of the terms, company-specific characteristics, etc. If the documentation should be translated, a multilingual terminology database is required (source and target languages). This database helps to optimize the translation workflow and to produce target texts that are consistent, unambiguous and thus of a higher quality.

The technical communicator needs to know the theoretical foundations of terminology work and terminology science so that he is able to adequately compile, process, update, represent and use terminology databases – in short, that he is able to “manage” terminology. In addition, to the theoretical knowledge the technical communicator needs to know the relevant standards and guidelines as well as the prevalent software tools for terminology extraction and terminology management (terminology databases). Moreover, he should also be familiar with the basic functionality of electronic tools for the terminology check.