Common pitfalls of the untrained terminologist

I recently had to revise a bilingual glossary done by someone who had not training in terminology management. Mind you, her intentions were good, but from 12 pages of terms (and non-terms) I reduced it to less than three pages. So, I think this is a great example to examine some of the pitfalls that untrained terminologists might face. I believe most, if not all, of her errors, come from a lack of knowledge of terminology management principles. The examples I give were taken from the unrevised glossary, and only the English extraction.

  1. Using Word is a no no. If you can’t afford a CAT tool I understand but using Word instead of Excel is not an option these days. Using Excel will allow you to export it to a CAT tool when you can afford one. Excel will also help you identify repeated terms quickly, even if wait until the end to order it alphabetically.
  2. Repeated terms will waste a lot of your precious time. I think I delete at least 50 repeated terms, once I transferred the text in Excel and order it alphabetically. In any case, if you start with a Word file, Word also offer the option to order it alphabetically, but, again, why waste your time?
  3. Terms should be in singular form, unless it’s a plural! This is even confusing to me sometimes. There are terms that are easy to spot, such as “legal fees”. In this case, your term entry must read “legal fee”. Also, take “Regional Development Bank(s)”. Not only should you delete that awful “(s)” but also lowercase the term, because it is referring to all types of regional development banks. Also, is this really a term that would you add to your termbase? “Arrears” on the other hand, should be left as is. That is an easy one!
  4. Don’t capitalize, unless it’s a proper name. The term was “Repos” when it should have been “repo”. A repo (and in singular form) is short for “repurchase agreement” (a type of short-term loan) and it’s widely used in the financial world. I would create one entry for “repurchase agreement” as the preferred term and add “repo” as an admitted term in that same entry, but always check with your expert or client first; they might want to have “repo” as preferred and “repurchase agreement” as admitted.

Taking about repos, the term “trading repos and reverse repos” was left as one. You should separate them as “trading repo” and “reverse repo”, as they refer to two different concepts.

  1. Do not put acronyms after terms. You have to add the acronym as a separate field inside your entry. The term “Long-Term Financial Projections (LTFP)” is not acceptable. Another issue with this glossary was that the person left acronyms as main terms. So always spell it out and put the acronym where it belongs.
  2. Garbage-in, Garbage-out. It is common that, to the unexperienced eye, words and expressions are wrongly considered terms. Take, for example, “reduction in contracting times”. This is not a specialized term, it’s a group of words that you can translate by looking at a regular dictionary. So, always ask yourself this question: “Can I find this in a regular dictionary or, as in this case, a financial dictionary?” If yes, then you don’t need to add it to your termbase.
  3. It is really one term, or two synonyms? The term “release (of a software)” is wrong. You cannot put your term in parenthesis in a term entry. Your term is “release” and you add the domain and a context or definition. The option “release of a software” sounds more like a part of a definition than anything else. What do you think? Trash it or keep it? I thought so!
  4. Two terms into one. The term “remediation and assessment” is actually two terms, so I would put them in two different entries, unless it’s part of a name or title, like “Asset and Liability Management Committee”.
  5. Too much information. The term “access portal for borrowers and executors” should be left as “access portal” and add a note or definition to explain that it is for the exclusive use of such and such. Besides, again, “access portal” is so commonly used these days that I wouldn’t even care to add it.
  6. To be or not to be. The term “backfill vacancies, to” should be “backfill”, then add the POS as “verb” and a definition or context in which “vacancy is used”. But again, if you go to Merriam-Webster, for example, you will find this verb fully explained in a similar context.
  7. The less complicated the better. A similar example to the previous one is the term “Pacific Alliance (The)”. The person might have thought that adding “(The)” was necessary, but if you google it the official name is “Pacific Alliance”, so no need to make things so complicated.
  8. Left to your imagination. I was baffled by the term “Tableau”. The translation into Spanish was left as “Tableau”, but what is it? It turns out is a software for businesses, but if you don’t add more information, you will probably be racking your brain trying it remember what it was. Document your entries!

To sum up, as you can see, this sample of entries tells us that not all that shines is gold. It is true that if you are going to use the termbase just for you, then you are allowed to include anything you want, but the idea behind terminology is reusability. It will save you a lot of time in the long term. And remember, always ask yourself “Can I find this in a dictionary or just by googling it?”.