Consistency of terminology and language is an important dimension of the quality of content. Using clear, unambiguous terms and language makes content easier for the reader to understand, and therefore is more likely to achieve the objective of communicating information.
There are also practical benefits from using terms and phrases consistently:
- Reduced time and cost to produce content by simplifying production
- Reduced time and cost to translate content due to consistent use of language
Technical writing style guide
A terminology list should cover more than just the nouns used. It should also cover the appropriate verbs to use with those nouns. Listing forbidden words and their alternatives is also an important method to avoid ambiguity.
But the terminology list doesn’t stand alone; it should be part of a comprehensive style guide. The style guide provides the following information:
- Writing style and tone of voice
- Formatting, for example, of dates, numbers, and metrics
- Accepted abbreviations and their meanings
How to create a communications style guide?
The style guide should be incorporated into all content production processes, for example in marketing, technical publications, customer support, and for external agencies. It should also be a key part of the review and approval process by providing a quality assurance check to ensure consistency across all communication channels.
For content that is translated, the style guide should be translated first to develop the correct terminology and tone of voice for the new language. By getting the style guide translated first, the translators will be able to localise the content more accurately the first time round, saving time and costs, while ensuring effective communication of the message.
A style guide is a key element for all content production processes. It ensures consistency across authors as well as channels.
Consistency of terms and language is important for quality to help effectively communicate with the reader, but also saves time and cost in content production and quality translations.
Here is a list of well-know style guides that you can use as a starting point for your own.