Terminology management in technical documentation

Many companies only use simple tables or files for their terminology management. In small companies, with a limited amount of technical documentation, this way of terminology management can be sufficient. However, as soon as terminology increases or technical documentation has to be translated into many languages, these companies have to reconsider their terminology management.

Why do you need terminology management?

Many employees, such as marketing staff, technical editors, translators or external service providers, create text and therefore need consistent terminology. To provide these employees with a company-specific glossary, terminology work is conducted to define the necessary terms. Mostly, technical editors are entrusted with this task. They define terminology, usually monolingual, sometimes in a second language. After that, translators can use the definitions to find fitting counterparts in their target languages and deliver consistent and correct translations. In this respect the translation department to a certain extent depends on the working results of the technical documentation department.

The terminology has been defined – what now?

The fact that defined terminology exists does not necessarily mean that technical editors or translators apply the terminology correctly. To ensure that, the terminology management is able to integrate copy-editing into the creation process. A very professional solution for this is the implementation of automatic language checkers, which immediately point out mistakes the technical editors make as they write. One sort of copy editing should be implemented, as terminology work does not make much sense without reviewing the terminology.

The second step is about managing the gathered terminology in a way the company can actually benefit from.

  • The acquired terminology should be saved centrally, for example in a database. That way, all employees, no matter where they are, can access the data and write consistent technical documentation, starting with the source text.
  • The search for unknown terms in the glossary should take place quickly and easily.

What is the connection between terminology management and translation?

A well-maintained terminology database with a glossary for the translation department ensures that technical documentation is not only consistent in the source language, but also in the target languages. There are systems for terminology management which are able to export terminology to a compatible format. Newly registered terms can be imported by translation management systems which support the translators. This not only ensures linguistic consistency in all languages, it also reduces translation costs. Single words or whole sentences which have already been translated before do not have to be translated again. The translation management system recognizes duplicates and automatically inserts the existing translation.

Well-conceived terminology management

Terminology management not only means registering and defining terminology, but also managing the terms usefully. The content management system, the translation memory system and terminology management are closely interconnected. Companies can only benefit fully from terminology work if all three systems are used efficiently.

Terminology Work