Why is a technical word important

Technical word, foreign word, non-word

Technical terms are considered the most decided enemy of intelligibility. The negative examples are all too well known: You only have to terminate the S0 hub if it is the last device on the input S0 bus. How often have you been annoyed about such formulations? Then why, one might ask, is it so difficult not to use technical terms in your own work?

Technical terms make texts easy: As provocative as that may sound, technical terms initially serve to simplify communication. Because the most important features of a technical term are brevity and precision. Technical terms generally summarize a complex issue in one or a few words. And at the same time they cut the vagueness of everyday vocabulary to such an extent that experts understand the same thing in every situation. So then somehow metal is pushed out so that a container is made more precise for tensile pressure forming of a sheet metal blank into a hollow body and the whole thing is shortened to deep-draw.

Only the other's technical term is bad: It is already clear to the expert that deep drawing does not describe how a cowboy shoots particularly nicely from the hip. The meaning remains closed to the layman, although the word itself is not complex. Because technical terms are not necessarily foreign words. And the expert is not necessarily an expert, but a layperson in all areas in which he is not an expert. Technical terms are not incomprehensible because the word itself is difficult. Rather, our lack of understanding signals to us that "We are talking about issues that you do not understand". And this is exactly where the technical writer should pay attention: It is not the style that is bad here, but the didactic concept of the instructions.

Recognize technical terms: When dealing with specialist vocabulary, it is therefore important to know your target group first. If you speak to experienced specialists with your instructions, you can also draw on the full range of specialist vocabulary. If the target group is less experienced professionals or laypeople, caution is advisable. Here it is important to develop and record the technical (vocabulary) knowledge of the layperson.

But unfortunately it is often not that easy to recognize a technical term as such. Because the boundaries between everyday language and technical language are fluid and we are often so familiar with technical terms that we consider them to be common knowledge. This happens particularly easily when technical terms are of German origin. The screwdriver is only called that by experts, so it is by no means the "correct" word for screwdriver.

Technical terms do not have to consist of just one word, they can be composed of several words, each of which is understandable for itself: potential energy, content management, living column - all individual parts are easy to understand and yet the term cannot be understood.

Dealing with technical terms: For the work of the editor, it is therefore advisable to build up a terminology base that not only defines the company terminology, but also collects general technical terms. Ideally, you should test this basis with the target groups, but if necessary, a colleague from outside the field will do the same. For each terminology entry, it is noted for which target groups it is (still) suitable. Conversely, this creates an exclusion list - words and terms that should not be used under any circumstances.

With suitable software, you can already determine while writing whether you are using terms that are difficult to understand carelessly. If the user has to understand the underlying technical concept in order to be able to use the machine or software described, then one should not do without technical language. Instead, it is important to emphasize the technical term as such and explain it when it first appears in the text. If the instructions are designed as a "reference work", you should definitely include a glossary if several technical terms are used. However, the basis of the whole is always a target group concept that is as precise as possible. Then it is also ensured that the technical term does not become a bad word.