The Unexpected Costs and Benefits of the Words We Use

Our language is part of our corporate identity. Communication errors carry a cost, which can be cash, time, missed opportunities, lost customers, damages to reputation, property, or even lives.

Consistent, clear, and unambiguous language in our communication, on the other hand, can increase the product usability, strengthen brand, and set the company apart from its competitors.

To communicate consistently, clearly and unambiguously, a company needs to agree on the core terms that describe its business: what those terms mean, how to write and use them, and how to translate them.

In a global company, inconsistent terms and terminology errors can multiply quickly and the costs of correcting them can easily spiral out of control. A single terminology error made at a product development stage can balloon into several hundred errors by the time the product is released globally with accompanying technical and marketing documentation.


The example shows the exponential nature of terminology error propagation and illustrates translation into five languages.

Correcting such errors requires rework that negatively impacts budgets and schedules. Leaving errors uncorrected has a negative impact on the product quality and customer experience.

Terminology management expedites and simplifies content creation and translation processes, and saves money as a result. It is a critical part of global content and information management. It can support corporate strategic priorities by helping to:

  • Improve the customer experience through use of clear and consistent terminology in customer-facing content
  • Strengthen global branding
  • Promote common language and understanding of core concepts internally to increase productivity and reduce rework in global content development
  • Foster collaboration between business units, regions, and new acquisitions by engaging them in terminology decision-making, and by sharing terminology resources

By Elena S. Dunne