What Is Terminology?

What’s a Term? 

Let’s start with a basic question: what is terminology? Put simply, terminology is the words and phrases that your company uses. 

Here are a few examples of terms that we use at Acrolinx: 

  • Scorecard
  • Acrolinx Score
  • Sidebar
  • Sidebar card
  • slide-out menu

We use these words and phrases to describe the features of our product. No matter where you work, your company has words and phrases that it uses to talk about products or processes. These are your terms.

Why Is Terminology Important?

So, why is it important to manage terminology? There are many ways to say the same thing.

For example, the concept of a "method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients" can be called an "email", "email message" or "electronic mail".

If we use all three, that can lead to inconsistency in what we’re writing. That in turn can lead to a poor user experience for our readers and higher translation costs.

So, what do you do? With terminology, you give a status to a term and allow only one to be used. In this case, you can say that "email" is the preferred term, and "email message" and "electronic mail" are deprecated terms.

What Do Writers See?

Writers get feedback on terminology in the Acrolinx Sidebar. They can see which terms to avoid, and if there’s a linked preferred term, they see a suggestion for the term to use instead.

In this example, "electronic mail" appears as a deprecated term in the Sidebar, with the clickable suggestion "email". It’s also a good idea to include a definition (what does the term mean) and a note (how should you use it). In this case, the writer can see why they should avoid "electronic mail", specifically because it’s "too long and not common usage".

What Are Your Terms?

The most effective way to manage terminology is to concentrate on the important words and phrases that your company uses. 

  • Which terms do you use frequently and in customer-facing content? 
  • Which terms change often and are hard to keep track of? 
  • Which terms are a big problem if you use them incorrectly? 
  • What words and phrases should you use to represent your brand?

If you’re thinking of adding a term, but it doesn’t fit any of these criteria, it’s probably not worth managing as a term.

Are you ready to add a term? Take a quick look at the Acrolinx terminology basics to get familiar with the basic features of a term in Acrolinx.