Reason Number One

Proactive terminology management promotes the consistent use of prominent terms across different product lines.

Many of the clients we serve at CSOFT are multi-industry conglomerates or joint-venture companies looking to further enhance their international presence. It’s not uncommon for these organizations to have multiple product lines spread over a whole host of divisions, the various synergies between which are essential to the successful creation of their respective end-products.

Say, for example, you are a large manufacturer of communication devices in the Telecom industry. You primarily produce cellular phones, but you also manufacture a range of accessories and games to complement the use of your main product. For the purposes of this example, we’ll limit the depth of our focus on one simple string of interaction between your different product lines: software. To wit, the different software applications for all of your phones, accessories, and games are all created in-house, and require a seamless degree of synchronization between terms to ensure maximum usability and integration.

Now, language in and of itself is an adaptable, fluctuating thing, and people by nature are drawn to creativity and personal expression. That is to say, if you take something so simple as the on/off switch on an electrical device, without a “gold standard” of sorts delineating your organization’s preferred nomenclature, Author A (who’s working on software strings) might say “restart” the device, whereas Author B (who’s writing a user manual) might say “reset” the device.

If, while installing a new game on their phone, users are prompted by your instruction manual to reset the device—as opposed to restarting it—it’s not unlikely that some users might, say, reset to factory settings, rather than simply turning off the phone and turning it on again. This can cause confusion, will probably rankle your consumers—who just accidentally deleted all of their text messages, phone preferences, and pictures of their family—and will necessitate otherwise preventable customer support, which costs a lot of money.

Before you shake your head at the unlikelihood of such an occurrence, consider for a moment why many curling irons come with the warning “For external use only.” Consumers, though we love them, will always find a way to completely and utterly boggle the mind.

In any case, were terminology management applied before any writing began on the software strings, user interface, and user documentation for your separate (but integrated) product lines, a standard would have been set early on for how each and every prominent term was to be used, and the above problem that arose from a simple terminological discrepancy between user manual and UI strings could have been avoided altogether.