Re: Terminology management

Subject: Re: Terminology management
From: Karen Toast <ktoast -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 07:50:09 -0700

- How extensive are your terminology lists?
WatchGuard uses a terminology lexicon of roughly 3000 words. This
balloons a bit when you add declinations but is still managable. The
lexicon took us roughly 18 months to evolve and has stablized with a
less then 1% delta per quarter over the last two quarters.

- Do you give your English language terminology lists to the
localisation team? Do they give you theirs?
Yes. Sort of - We use outside vendors for translation. They give us
back those terms that appear in the docs we hand them. There has yet
to be a case where a single document uses the entire lexicon.

- If your company produces many products, do you have separate product
terminology lists or do you put them all in one terminology list? If
separate product terminology lists, how do you handle terms shared

between products?
We are small enough that one lexicon is sufficient for all of our
technical publications. However, we are in the process of building
separate supplementary lexicons for our marketing team.

I strongly encourage you to avoid separate lexicons for each product
line. That is one of the most important problems you can resolve with
a single pallette of words. Force your organization to a single
discipline regarding the definition of terms. Unless you are making
products as disparate as produce and cars of course... then you face a
challenge I can't really address ;)

- Who selects the terms? In my experience terminology lists drawn up by
those involved in localisation are always longer than lists done by tech
writers used to working in one language only. So does your company keep

one shorter terminology list for those writing the source docs and
another, longer one, for those involved in localisation? If so, how do
the lists link up?)
The initial selection of our terms was through a process of data
mining. Working with a firm that does this, you provide a
representative sample of the documentation your organization produces.
Statistical analysis can provide you with a list of the terms you will
need for your lexiconn. This provides your "base". It's a long process
since you need to assign some key writers with cross-product
functional expertise to help resolve differences in terminology.
However! We found it very helpful in bringing the teams closer

Then, you need to spend some time rolling out this lexicon against
several product lines and documents. Expect roughly 10% increase as
you do that. You'll also throw out a surprising number of words. In
our shop, we call the application and enforcement of a lexicon (along
with controlled authoring) "scrubbing". Scrubbing is fun but hard.
I've also heard it referred to as a form of "translation". Since you
are translating your docs from natural language with any words to a
limited, restricted lexicon.

THEN! and only then, do you hand off your lexicon and definitions to
the translation/localization teams along with the "scrubbed" document
samples. And really, it requires discipline on the part of your
localization teams to keep their lists as close as possible to a 1:1
match for the source material. Start with a 1:1 translaztion of the
lexicon and its declinations.

- How much information do you collect about a term (eg, definition,
context, different language versions, abbreviation/acronym, usage, ..)?
We collect:
- part of speech
- declinations where appropriate

- definition
- generic example and example in context of an existing source
document from our company
- synonyms (which of course are NOT in the lexicon itself ;) )

As we started translating, we added in each language pair the nuanced
alternatives... again, we tried to keep these to a minimum but some
languages (
e.g. Japanese *rolls eyes*), you just can't avoid a bit of ballooning
in the translated lexicon.

- Who validates the info about a term?
We have a three layered validation. First, the Managing Editor writes
the full term entry into our system. He publishes these periodically
to all writers. As long as no one quibbles, we are done.

Next, there is a Writers Committee which meets periodically to
evaluate the terms over which there is dispute. Those meetings are
actually VERY fun. Fortunately or unfortunately, as the lexicon
stablizes, we get to meet less and less frequently. Too bad... there
is really nothing more entertaining then a team of professional
technical writers arguing over the meaning of a term.

Finally, we have a company-wide Terminology Committee. This is a
multi-disciplinary team with reps from Engineering, Support, Sales,
Marketing... etc. That group meets at quarterly (or as needed though
again less frequently) to discuss truly NEW TERMS. We are a company
that invents stuff. Believe it or not, sometimes we need to literally
make up a word out of thin air.

- How do you keep terminology consistent within and between product
CHECKER TOOL! There are at least a half dozen good ones and I won't go
on record (yet) which one I like best. But a checker tool is
absolutely part of this process. Without it, the lexicon isn't worth
the bits its written in.

- How do you get people to use the correct terms in the documentation
they're writing/maintaining/translating?
Checker tools. Again.

- How do you handle synonyms?
Hah! And a third time. Any decent checker tool enables you to add
synonyms. If you use the wrong one, up it pops with the word you
should be using.

- When a term is changed (say, "alarm level" is now "response level"),
how do you tell the translators, writers, MarCom, customers.?
We do it through the Terminology Committee. We also publish our full
lexicon to the intranet.

- Do you use a terminology management tool? If yes, which one?
YES. I'll send you that via personal e-mail.



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Terminology management: From: jennifer o neill

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