One of my favorite roles as a technical communicator is terminologist. As a terminologist, I help teams define and standardize their use of technical terms (see Wordnik for their collection of definitions for terminology). I research various existing definitions and uses, and document our own standardized term, definition, and usage advice. Technical editors often make great terminologists, but I think that information architects and their participation with building taxonomies also makes them able to step into this role.
A tweet from @ContentWrangler sent me to a fascinating site called The Language of Content Strategy:
This led me to discover the full list of terms that they were defining, starting from content and content strategy, and winding their way through information architecture and adaptive content, and so many others. The whole purpose of the site is to begin to define a common language, a nomenclature (the terminology), for the domain of content strategy.
They invited 52 experts to define 52 terms following a common template that answers these 3 questions:
- What is it?
- Why is it important?
- Why does a content strategist need to know this?
In addition to the questions, a set of additional resources is provided where readers can delve deeper into the core term that they are defining.
Working in the software development world, I would often create “terminology specifications” (or term specs) that would sit along side of other design specs that the development teams created. I would try to mimic or use their templates, so that the spec would fit right in and be more likely to be consulted and used throughout the software development process. This site is one of the best terminology specifications that I’ve seen.