Content Strategy—Terminology

Your content strategy should identify the preferred terminology to be used throughout the content. You need to be consistent with the terms you use. If you are the only contributor to your content, it’s not too difficult to identify the terminology to use and stick with it. But if your content has multiple contributors, each person will tend to favor certain word choices. The problem is compounded when multiple product teams are contributing to the same content. Each team may call things by different names, which leads to content that is confusing to the reader and difficult to search.

Terminology consistency goes beyond the names of things. It also applies to how you use language. Below are some examples of language usage to standardize on. In each case, there is no right answer. But there is a wrong answer, and that’s to not stick to your consistency decisions.

  • Contractions. Are they allowed?
  • Jargon. If jargon appears in your content, you must define it. It’s typically best to assume your reader doesn’t know what it means.
  • Point of view. Will your content be in first, second, or third person? First person (using “I” or “we”) is often used for personal essays or memoirs. Second person is used to address the reader, “you.” It is often used in business and technical writing to tell the reader how to do something: “You need to create an account before you can use the product.” Third person is is common in fiction writing and academic writing and involves using “he,” “she,” or “it” when referring to a person, place, thing or idea. This blog is written in second person. I (the author) am explaining what you (the reader) should do.

This is just a small sampling of terminology decisions you need to make.

Books to Guide You

If you don’t want to make an exhaustive list of terminology that’s approved for your content, you may want to define the items described above and then use a commonly-accepted reference book to guide your language decisions. Two books you may want to consider are:

  • The Microsoft Manual of Style, which is best for technology writing. It defines the terminology used by Microsoft on their websites and in their technical documentation, and provides numerous examples to help guide you.

 

  • The Chicago Manual of Style, which is the de facto definition of writing style for many authors going back as far as 1906. The current version is the 17th edition; the publishers of this style guide ensure that it is up-to-date with current accepted writing styles.

The blog topics in this series look at several concepts and details related to content strategy. See these topics for more information:

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Cindy Written by:

A communications expert with over 25 years experience.

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