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Taking Control of your Terminology

For most people, terminology does not tend to be an all-consuming obsession. They're just words, right? In the grand scheme of things, terminology hardly features up there with AIDS in Africa and the Middle East crisis as discussion points. Let's face it, if the guy next to you at the bar starts talking about terminology, you'll almost certainly look at your watch and say, "Gosh, is that time? I really must dash!"

When it comes to terminology, familiarity breeds contempt. Authors writing corporate documentation, be it marketing brochures, technical manuals, catalogues or web content, should know which terms to use. If they don't, they'd better stop authoring and do something else. So why worry about it? We need to look at two important issues - quality management and translation.

We are in the age of ISO certification. Certain industry sectors can't budge without it. We all know that quality certification will never guarantee a perfect product, but what it does do is indicate that the procedures and processes of a given organisation conform to a quality standard subject to rigorous monitoring. If the use of terminology is ignored in these procedures and processes, what we can end up with is one term being used in a catalogue, another in instructions for use or service documentation, and yet another in marketing material. Sadly, this happens every day. Inconsistent use of terminology can, at best, be interpreted as carelessness and reflects badly on the organisation. At worst, it might even end up being a legal or safety issue.


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By Bob Clark, Linguistic Consultant at Translution Limited

Bob Clark is a Linguistic Consultant with Translution Limited, a UK-based company developing automatic translation plug-ins for Microsoft Office and Exchange. He graduated from the University of Leeds with a Joint Honours Degree in Arabic and Russian, and now holds the post of Senior Lecturer in Translation Technology on the MA in Applied Translation Studies programme at the same university. He was a long-time editor of Language International, a publication dedicated to the dissemination of developments affecting all aspects of the multilingual documentation production process, including authoring, translation and publication. Bob also holds a directorship in the International Trade Association of Greater Chicago.
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