The benefit of a glossary

Building up a glossary from scratch is coherent with big effort. You have to ask yourself which use a glossary brings:

  • a glossary supports collaborating people to speak one common language.
  • it improves a common comprehension and reduces high-priced missunderstandings.
  • companies use it, to treat information, archive knowledge and provide it for all colleagues.
  • it can be found as a marketing tool on product pages in the internet.

Use cases:

A glossary is easy to use. Most of us have seen one before. We know them best from the following use cases:

  • as mentioned before, the internet contains lots of glossaries. Often they are used to explain and understand a technical product. Mostly they are part of a technical documentation.
  • glossaries are also known from the subject e-learning. They support the learners in understanding topics.
  • in a companies intranet, the best-known example is the company glossary. The most important terms of the company are described in the usually prominently linked company glossary. Co-existing next to the term glossary, a abbreviation glossary can be found. It is very useful for new colleagues not knowing all specific terms and abbreviations existing in their company. They do not yet speak the companies language.
  • glossaries are used in special fields/departments, too. Often they are more specific and only cover the terms of the respective product or development.

A glossary for team work or projects

Not very common is the use of a glossary in teams or a project. Especially here it can be useful. Members of a team or a project work together closely. Information is rarely passed in a good structure and and well-treated. Information can be found as headword in a mail or any other fast written document. We all have seen that multiple expressions for the same term were used together in one document. The danger of missunderstandings and unneeded inquiries is high.

Microsoft SharePoint using teams can easily create a glossary. The effort is low. Often a glossary explaining 10 to 20 terms is enough to speak the same language.

The more heterogenous and divers a team was created and the more versatile a specific function is, the more the the creation and maintenance of the glossary will be worth it.

In other words, a team working together for several years based on the same training and formation, won't need a glossary. For a team with diverse members the glossary might be very helpful.


What is a glossary

Last is the question what a glossary is and how to circumvent it.

According to wikipedia, a glossary is a list of words in combination with their explanation. Even in practical use it is rarely more than a term and its definition. A glossary focusses on the clarification of a term.

There is a thin line between a lexicon (like wikipedia) and a glossary and with a more theoretical significance. A lexicon offers basic information for a topic or a term and is more detailed than a glossary. The lexicon focusses on provisioning and archiving knowledge for a subject and not only on the clarification of single terms.