Global authoring refers to the practice of creating clear and consistent source content to ensure faster, lower-cost translations. But whether or not you’re planning to translate content into other languages, writing as if you are will result in clearer, more consistent content that is easier to read for all audiences—both native English speakers and the 600 million+ people worldwide who speak English as a second language.
If that’s not enough to convince you, consider this: inconsistencies, like using different terms for the same thing, cause confusion among your readers and ultimately lead to escalating support costs and declining customer loyalty.
The Impact of Inconsistent Terminology
Here’s just one example. Company A’s new product has a switch that is labeled “On.” But when the technical writer starts the documentation, she writes “power switch.” At the same time, the marketing department creates a huge media campaign called “Just Press Play.” Another technical writer then documents a troubleshooting tip titled: “Why doesn’t the playback button work?” Then the writer in charge of support documentation—who has never seen the product in person—calls the switch the “start button.” When a customer actually gets the product and tries to use it, he is very confused as to what switch/button to use, which leads to a support call to a customer service rep who is trying to help with the “start button” instead of the “on switch.” All of this adds up to a much lower likelihood that the customer will buy another product from Company A, ever again.
If you were keeping count, that’s five different terms for the same thing, in five different sources. That’s a lot of documentation to fix. Now, add in translation, and you can multiply that by the number of languages you support. Without a set of guidelines for consistent content at the source, it’s pretty easy to end up with inconsistent content, which can lead to:
- Higher costs, due to the inability to reuse content or leverage existing translations
- Lower quality, due to the inability to leverage other internal knowledge
- Reduced reach, due to the inability to reach customers across all markets with high-quality translated content
Consistent Content = Terminology Management
The key to avoiding the expensive and time-consuming nightmare of trying to get this sorted out is consistent content. And the key to consistent content is the practice of terminology management. Terminology management provides writers and reviewers with clear guidelines about correct terms to use in their authoring. The result is more accurate content that is available to be translated and approved by in-country experts – leading to a more streamlined translation process. Once you have your terminology guidelines in place, you can also leverage this valuable asset in other ways, including as a resource for content management systems and authoring, translation, and search optimization tools.
When undertaking a terminology management project for the first time, it helps to appoint a terminologist who can develop and manage the guidelines, including who can contribute to them, how they will be stored, and to whom they will be distributed.
Terminology management is critical for lowering translation and support costs and leads to content that is clear and effective.
→ If you’d like to find out more, check out my webcast: “Global Authoring: Optimizing Content for Global Audiences.”
You can also read my previous posts on this topic: