What is terminology management?

Terminology is a key factor in the corporate communication of companies. Efficient management of technical vocabulary and company-specific words and phrases ensures professional and goal-oriented communication and prevents not only misunderstandings but also unnecessary translation costs. Although this involves a little more time and effort to begin with, the effect and benefit are incomparably greater and pay off.


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If your current shoes were to break, would you look for sneakers, gym shoes, casual shoes, or trainers? That which is already striking in detail becomes all the more important in the broader context: talking about the same things and understanding what the other person is talking about makes it easier to communicate with customers, business partners and also internally with colleagues. A terminology strategy that ensures that all parties involved use the same terms for the same concepts or products and that customers receive precise information about offers and products is extremely helpful here. But all too often the topic is initially underestimated or overlooked. Yet it is an important prerequisite for corporate communication and crucial for the consistent creation of texts in all existing media and channels alone. However, when companies start to operate globally and in multiple languages, they realise that they have to pay much more attention to correct and brand-appropriate terminology. And the sooner they do, the better.

What is terminology?

Terminology is defined as the complete technical vocabulary or the totality of all concepts and terms – or just terms – of a subject area. For companies, it is the basis of high-quality, clear, concise and correct communication. It is an important means of conveying information. It can also take up a lot of time when lots of different terms are used for one and the same product across different areas of the company and in different languages.

What are the benefits of effectively managed terminology?

Companies with defined, standardized corporate and technical language communicate clearly and consistently with customers, business partners and colleagues. This key advantage has either a positively noticeable effect in all areas, or a negative one if the terminology is missing. Some key aspects:

  • Contents are formulated clearly, concisely and coherently in any language.
  • Even the creation of text in the source language is simplified.
  • There is no risk of confusion due to inaccurate terms.
  • Content can be created and brought to market faster.
  • The effort that goes into research and translation is reduced by including consistent technical terms and definitions, metadata and contexts.
  • Machine translation and MTPE are becoming more effective, faster and even more cost-effective.
  • All products and materials use an agreed, consistent and comprehensible language.
  • The brand is strengthened worldwide through clear messages.
  • Legal and safety/security problems due to inconsistent language or unintentional misunderstandings are avoided.

How do you get terminology – and how do you get started?

The terminology of a company is actually already there! It is present in all documents and company texts, on the website and in databases. It therefore “only” needs to be compiled, structured and defined.

This is done by extracting all frequently or repeatedly occurring terms from as many sources and texts as possible, which are made available to a terminology service provider. This produces a list of results, the contents of which must be professionally assessed and linguistically cleaned up. The terms are then defined and enhanced with context sentences and additional information and, if necessary, with foreign language equivalents.

What technical components does effective terminology management need?

First of all, terminology needs a central place where all concepts and terms of the subject area, as well as all corresponding additional information and their usage, are recorded. This can be formulated in a glossary or a list, but now it is mostly managed digitally and multilingually in a terminology database.

And, every time a product is developed, or when you write a text or produce a translation, the new terms are continuously proposed, and can be added to the terminology database directly, so that it grows along with the company.

This creates a controlled and, above all, available technical vocabulary, which is an important basis for technical documentation and efficient translations. The necessary rules and decisions are defined and documented in a terminology guideline to make them comprehensible and reproducible.

When and how is terminology management recommended?

Always and at any time. After all, the technical vocabulary or terminology of the company is already present in all documents, on the website and in the databases. And it has long been managed, for example in style guides, product specifications or notes from employees.

However, in the interests of consistent and efficient multilingual communication, terminology must be collated and used in a structured manner. Even if this takes a little extra time and effort to begin with, the effects and savings are much greater shortly afterwards and in the long term.

Statistically, when you’re writing a document, the greatest cost involved when you’re searching for just the right term to use is time. Making later corrections to the document and translated versions is not only time-consuming, but also very costly. This is why it is so important to define terminology before creating documents and having them translated. Keeping these definitions up-to-date will also minimise time and costs in the long term.

Best Practice Terminology Management

Some companies are already many steps ahead. For example, the technology group ZF Friedrichshafen: In our case study, we show you how ZF, with the support of the terminology team at oneword GmbH, have effectively and efficiently defined, cleaned up and transferred its extensive terminology data into additional languages, thereby raising corporate communications in 12 languages to a new level of quality. In the current case study, you can read how and what the extensive benefits are.

For companies that are only just starting to deal with the topic of terminology, we advise firstly localising and taking stock of the situation. First of all, the free checklist “Can your company benefit from terminology management?” (only available in German) can help you answer some key questions and show you what requirements need to be met and where terminology work is particularly useful. Our terminology consulting service will show you how you can use the advantages of terminology management individually and optimally for your company. Just get in touch with us.

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