Glossaries are typically thought of as translation resources. Whilst this is true, they can also be incredibly important as monolingual resources (for example in English-language only) and in a variety of industries.
For instance, marketers may want to document the use of a certain term to differentiate a particular service offering from that of a rival company; engineers may be concerned with accurate product descriptions for safety requirements; and patent attorneys may be interested in ways to promote consistency when drafting the claims for a new patent application. A glossary is an ideal way to store all of this information.
Firstly, what is a glossary?
Whatever the industry or field — from hotels to food and drink, from law to engineering — there will be specialised terms (words) or phrases that are specific to that particular domain.
You may already have a list of such terms, possibly even including translations, added by in-country colleagues or external translators. Such lists are referred to as glossaries, and when it comes to translating source documentation, they prove to be an invaluable resource for translators and translation companies.
Not only that, but a glossary can also be a tremendous help even outside of translation as a monolingual resource — whether for internal use as a point of reference when creating new content along with style guides, or as a help document for the on-boarding of new starters with explanations of certain phrases.
Glossaries can take all different formats — a straightforward two-column table in Word, a 25-language Excel spreadsheet complete with 2000 rows, or a fully-fledged CAT-tool-compatible ‘Termbase’ format, and many more.
Got it… So, how can glossaries help me?
Now we know what they are, you might be wondering how they can help you and your colleagues. And, more to the point, whether they are worth the time and effort. What are the benefits of glossaries?
Maintain consistency of branding and tone of voice
Companies can have many different teams and departments, stretching over numerous regions or countries. Making sure that your branding message remains the same across such a vast team can be a challenge. When you have a glossary, it can help all colleagues use the terminology set out by the company to ensure your customers see your branding and messages as intended.
Provide a useful resource for your customers
A list of terminology could be used on a webpage or as a downloadable PDF for your customers to access and refer to, helping to increase website traffic (and potentially lead to more conversions), reinforce your company’s reputation in your particular industry as a knowledgeable industry expert and to make you stand out from your competitors.
Streamline the content creation (and translation) process
Projects involving challenging terms often lead to queries. Such questions can come from colleagues, suppliers (think: external companies creating marketing content) or translators (if your source content is being translated by your own in-house translators or by external specialists).
If these terms are already included in a glossary along with an explanation (and, even better, with diagrams), it will smooth the process and mean your time can be spent on other tasks. Plus it will save time for the would-be questioner and allow their work to continue more smoothly and efficiently.
The above points provide just a taste of the benefits to be enjoyed when using glossaries. You may find they help you in another and particular way. The possibilities are endless!
How do I create a glossary?
Now that you have some ideas about how and where a glossary could be beneficial, you might be wondering how to start one up. The good news is that you can get started right away as you do not need to have any special software to create a basic one.
Manual compilation or automated extraction?
Existing informal lists of terms could be brought together manually into a single file — Word or Excel, for example — to create a glossary. The file can be as simple or as complex as required – in its most basic form, a single column listing all terms would be all that you need. A slightly more complex example could have several additional columns to allow the user to include information such as the source of the term, whether it has been approved internally or forbidden from use, or even an image or diagram.
A list of terms can also be extracted – either manually or by the use of tools - from existing documentation. Most translation companies will use some sort of terminology management solution and will be happy to provide advice if you need further assistance. At Alexika, for example, we use the latest MultiTerm software from SDL for terminology maintenance and, where appropriate, often have glossaries set up already for some clients.
Review is crucial
Once compiled, a review of the terms is strongly recommended and will lead to a higher quality resource. Taking the time and effort to do this will ensure that you are able to maximise the benefits of having an accurate and high-quality glossary in the long term.
In the case of multilingual glossaries, colleagues in other countries can become involved by adding and approving the translated versions in their languages. Since collaboration with translators or a translation company works best when there is a feedback loop, this can happen before, during or after translation. Feedback on translated terminology in particular is very important in getting the best out of the relationship and the translated documents.
Once the glossary has been created, checked and reviewed, it is ready for use. New entries can be made on an ad-hoc basis and existing content checked regularly to ensure that your terminology is current and accurate.
If you would like any tips on how to get started with glossaries or have any questions about managing your current resources, we would be delighted to hear from you.
Gemma Smith, January 2021