Game-Changing Benefits of Terminology Management System + How to Start One

Uwe Muegge, Head of Terminology, Global Business Marketing at Facebook shares insights on what terminology management system is, how game-changing it is to your organization, and how to jumpstart your terminology management initiative with little resource.


At Global Ready Conference 2021, we were joined by Uwe Muegge, Head of Terminology, Global Business Marketing at Facebook. Uwe shared valuable insights on terminology management and how the benefits of managing terminology go far beyond improved consistency and quality.

Here are the three takeaways from this session:

  1. Managing terminology is about much more than just being consistent. Terminology management is a real business value and may help you get your product to market faster.

  2. Terminology management is not rocket science. It’s about giving authors and translators guidance on how to use the words that matter most in your organization.

  3. You don’t need an abundance of resources to begin your terminology project. The best advice to starting it is to start!

What Is Terminology Management?

Here is the simplest definition of a term by Uwe: “a term is a word or phrase that matters to you and your organization. If you care about a word enough that you want everyone in your organization to use only that word when you talk about that, that word is a term.”

The academic definition of terminology management is “methods for collecting, maintaining, and accessing terminology data.” In our context, Uwe defines commercial terminology for us as, “the process of providing guidance on word choice to authors and translators.”

Terminology management helps content creators throughout the entire life cycle, from authors and reviewers to translators and translation editors, choose the right words efficiently. The number one job of terminology management is to enable content creators to pick the right words without wasting their time on research or endless discussions with coworkers.

Watch Uwe’s session in its entirety here.

Why Terminology Programs Fall Short

The following seems to be a widespread attitude when it comes to considering terminology management system:

  • There is no time for a terminology management program.
  • I don’t know how to do it.
  • Everyone is busy and has multiple priorities, so it’s hard to fit one in yet.
  • It’s a nice-to-have (systematic terminology management’s potential is not recognized).
  • It’s a difficult task even for an experienced terminologist. Starting one is a daunting task.

Why Do I Need a Terminology Management System?

Those concerns are understandable, but the organizations that have overcome those are the ones that stand out.

Managing terminology improves consistency, which leads to improved quality of your product and your customers’ experience of your product. But there is more. Let’s talk about how terminology management can have an even more immediate impact on the success of your products and services in the marketplace.

Terminology issues create friction.

Management done right can reduce the time it takes to get your products to market domestically and internationally.

Content is often handled by many different people in an organization. Without a terminology program in place, writers spend a lot of time researching and debating what the correct terms are. The more distributed these teams are, the more time it takes for research and reconciliation when this time can be better spent improving the content.

Finding the right term can be challenging even for highly trained translators with many years of experience. Uwe knows that translators can’t spend more than a few seconds finding a proper translation for a term when they are asked to meet tight deadlines. By having a terminology management process in place, translators can spend their time translating more content and making the translation sound more natural.

The bottom line is that the friction the lack of terminology management introduced into the content life cycle slows down the entire process, making a real impact on a business’s launch calendar.

Now then, what do you think will happen if all key terms were available to content creators at the beginning of each project?

Terminology management system is a game-changer for all stakeholders.

With a comprehensive, project-specific multilingual termbase available, the authors can not only produce higher quality content faster, but their work also becomes more enjoyable.

When the authors use the correct terms the first time around, editors can focus on improving the tone, voice, and messaging with their time that would otherwise have been wasted on correcting the terms.

The translators will have the assurance that they’re using the same translated term that everyone else in the project is using, resulting in higher translation quality and productivity.

The reviewers’ jobs also change because, with the terminology management system, they no longer have to waste their time making sure the various translators in a project use the correct term translations consistently across the project. Now they can focus on making sure the translated text sounds and reads as fluent as a translation possibly can.

Now you have a team that is producing higher quality content, getting products to market faster, and happier with their job.

Watch Uwe’s session in its entirety here.

Terminology management is inclusive.

We all know that language is constantly changing. New words come into prominence, and others disappear. But now is a time where one aspect of language is getting a lot of attention: how we talk about ethnicity, religion, gender, mental and physical ability, age, and other social and cultural characteristics. Using inclusive language in communication has become a high priority within and outside of one’s organization.

This type of culture change is a massive challenge for an organization of any size. When there are hundreds of content creators in an organization, how do you make sure all of your content reflects this consistently? How do you update all existing content? And how do you review all that content without burdening your authors and editors?

Once again, the answer is terminology management. The ability to assist authors in adopting inclusive language quickly is another significant benefit of implementing a terminology management program.

How to Begin Terminology Management Initiative

Uwe recommends that if you have substantial resources to implement a corporate terminology program, hire an experienced terminology consultant. But if that’s not the case for you, here are some of Uwe’s tips on jumpstarting your terminology management initiative.

  1. If this is your first time starting terminology management, choose a small project with a lower launch priority to run a pilot program, so it’s less pressure on you and your team.

  2. Get involved in the document lifecycle earlier, ideally in the content planning stage. Once a localization project is passed onto a vendor, it’s almost always too late. To compile a comprehensive project-specific termbase, have it translated into all the languages you cover and get feedback on those term translations, remembering to do this before the content translation begins.

  3. Look for all possible terminology resources. You may think you have no staff or budget to start your terminology management, but you may be surprised by what you find. Individual authors and editors most likely have their personal glossaries, and your legal department should have a list of all your trademarks. These make a great starter dictionary.

  4. Once you find or create a termbase, make sure to share it with your internal and external stakeholders.

  5. From your first terminology program, collect as much data as possible on the positive impact terminology has had on that project and share that data with management and colleagues. That’s how you build a business case for a terminology management program so that you can grow it to an organization-wide solution.

How Do I Create a Termbase?

The objective of building a termbase is to provide guidance on the words that matter in an organization. Here are a few critical components of a termbase:

The name of your company

There are so many ways you can create variants of even the simplest company name. You can write it in all capital letters, write it with or without the legal form or a comma between the name and legal form. You may use the ticker symbol for publicly traded companies or use short forms or abbreviated forms… and the list goes on. So always include the name of your organization in your termbase with detailed usage notes for all use cases.

The names of all your products and key features, including trademarks

These are words you and your customers care about, so translators must get them right. Registering a trademark is a long and expensive process, and yet many organizations fail to include this critical type of intellectual property in the termbase, which causes all kinds of problems in translation. Not every translator is familiar with international copyright laws and the fact that trademarks can lose their legal protection when used in any form other than the version that is registered.

Also, remember to use the trademark symbol each time the trademarked item is mentioned. If you include the trademark symbol the first time in the document and not thereafter, you run the risk of trademarks being mishandled. If you add your trademarks to your termbase, you can make sure they survive translation intact.

Key terms

Include words that you want to be used consistently. It is not uncommon that different types of content are written by different functional groups in your company. Have all UI items available in a termbase to ensure that the same terms are translated the same way across all components of a project. There are many instances where multiple different words are used to mean one thing. These words can cause confusion if not used consistently, especially when they appear in multiple pieces.

We hope you find Uwe’s share of terminology knowledge and wisdom helpful! Eager to get started on terminology management for your organization? Learn more about Smartling’s Linguistic Asset Management service here.

Watch Uwe’s session in its entirety here.