Making the perfect glossary, or the hidden source of global consistency

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Consistency is one of the most important aspects of any translation project. If your content is not consistent, it can be confusing for your audience and make your brand look unprofessional.

When you’re just starting out as a business, you can keep track of your terminology in a spreadsheet. You can even pin a post in your Slack workspace that everyone can refer to.

But as you grow and start working with more people on different projects, you’ll quickly realize that this system is no longer feasible: new terms are constantly being introduced, old ones are phased out. It becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of everything without using a translation management system

This is where glossaries come in.

What is a glossary in the context of localization?

A glossary, also known as a terminology base, is an organized collection of approved translations for specific terms. These can be technical terms, industry-specific jargon, or just set words that are used frequently in your content.

It’s important to note that a glossary is not the same as a translation memory (TM). A TM is simply a database of previously translated content, while a glossary is specifically designed to store terminology.

While you can use TMs to search for previous translations of a given term, glossaries provide a much more structured and organized interface, making them easier to use and maintain. This also provides you with a systematic way of introducing, approving, and phasing out terms.

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Benefits of using glossaries

There are many benefits to using glossaries in your localization workflow. Here are just a few:

  • Ensure consistency. With glossaries you can make sure that the same terminology is used throughout all of your content. This is especially important for technical terms and industry jargon, which can be difficult to keep track of.

  • Improve quality. By using glossaries, you can ensure that only approved, high-quality translations are used in your content. This is especially important for technical content, where a poor translation can have serious consequences.

  • Facilitate collaboration. Glossaries make it possible for multiple people to work on the same project without having to worry about inconsistent terminology. This gives you more flexibility if you need to bring in more people into the localization process, which can speed things up and lead to better results.

  • Save time. When integrated with your CAT tool, glossaries allow you to quickly insert approved translations into your content without having to leave the editor or search through multiple tabs.

  • Save money. Glossaries are one of the least expensive ways to ensure quality in your translations. Using glossaries can save you multiple rounds of revision and editing.

  • Avoid risking your reputation. At a time when a single mishap can cause a PR disaster, having a glossary in place can help you avoid the potential risks of using words that might have negative connotations in certain settings or cultures.

Different kinds of glossaries

As we already mentioned, glossaries can be used to store different kinds of terminology.

  • Industry glossaries contain the terms that are specific to a certain industry or field, which may be difficult to understand for the individuals outside the field.

  • Client glossaries are made of items specific to a certain client or brand that may include product or service names and definitions, forms of greeting and address, etc.

  • Project glossaries are vocabularies or phrases from various models, reports and any other parts of a software project. Each term is defined with its meaning specific to the project domain.

How to create and maintain a glossary

No matter whether you need to extract terms from some documentation or plan to create a new glossary from scratch, the steps are very similar.

  1. Preparation

Identifying and determining the purpose/type of the glossary and collecting existing materials, e.g. ready glossaries or style guides.

2. Glossary creation

Extracting terms from the reference materials and creating definitions/translations for these.

3. Handling and usage

Uploading the glossaries to your terminology management software and linking these to your projects.

Providing the glossaries  to your translators and editors or writers or using them automatically to validate translations and create new documentation.

This is where Smartcat comes in.

Using glossaries in Smartcat

Smartcat’s glossary feature lets you create, manage, and use your glossaries all in one place. As you work within Smartcat’s CAT editor, the app will highlight terms from your glossary that match the content you’re working on and allow you to insert it with a single key press:

This way, you can quickly and easily insert approved translations without ever having to leave the editor.

With Smartcat’s glossary feature you can:

  • Use multiple glossaries. This can be useful if you want to have different glossaries for different projects or types of content.

  • Approve and reject terms. This allows you to have a process in place for approving new terms before they are added to the glossary.

  • Add comments and context for each term. This can be very helpful for translators, as it provides them with additional information about the terms.

  • Specify terms to avoid. This is useful if you want to make sure that certain terms are never used in your content.

  • Import glossaries from Excel files. If you initially created your glossary in Excel, you can easily import it into Smartcat.

All in all, using Smartcat’s glossary feature is a great way to streamline your localization workflow and ensure consistency in your translations.

Glossary tips and tricks

Having a streamlined solution for glossaries is just one part of the equation. To make them truly effective, you also need to put some thought into how you’re going to use them.

Here are a few tips and tricks:

  • Don’t forget about your target audience. When creating or updating your glossary, always keep your target audience in mind. Some jargon might be perfectly clear to you, but it might not make sense to someone who is not familiar with your industry.

  • Add context to your entries. A word like “tab” can have totally different meanings in different contexts. Adding those to your entries will help translators understand how the term is being used, and choose the most appropriate translation.

  • Add “no-go” terms and phrases. If there are certain terms or phrases that you never want to see in your content, add them to your glossary with a note that they are not to be used. (In Smartcat, if a translator tries to use a banned term, they will see a warning message.)

  • Don’t try to cover everything. It’s important to have a comprehensive glossary, but you’re not creating a New Oxford English Dictionary. Try to focus on the most important terms.

  • Split different domains into different glossaries. If you’re translating both contracts and marketing collateral, you might want to have two separate glossaries. You don’t want to use words like “notwithstanding” in your Facebook copy!

  • Have a process to keep your glossaries up to date. As your business grows and changes, your glossary will need to evolve with it. Make sure you have a way of adding, removing, and updating terms on a regular basis.

  • Have any new additions approved by someone with domain expertise. Smartcat makes it easy for translators to suggest new terms, but it’s important to have someone with the right expertise approve them before they are rolled out to the rest of the team.

  • Make sure everyone knows about your glossary. A glossary is only effective if everyone on your team, both in-house and outsourced, knows about it and uses it. Promote it among your colleagues, and provide training on how to use it effectively.

  • Complement your glossary with a style guide. A style guide is another great way to ensure consistency in your translations. By combining it with a glossary, you can create an even more powerful tool for consistency across all of your content.

  • Finally, don’t forget that a glossary is not a silver bullet. It’s just one tool in your localization arsenal, and it needs to be used with other QA tools and processes to be truly effective.

We hope this article has given you a better understanding of what glossaries are and how they can be used to streamline your localization workflow.If you want to try Smartcat’s glossary feature, sign up for a free account and give it a go!

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