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Technical Glossary

A technical glossary is the listing of terms in a paper or other form of educational or knowledgeable materials providing a definition for the terms that are used. A glossary typically appears at the end of a book or paper and includes the terms that are used within the book or papers that are either being introduced for the first time or are uncommon terms.

A technical glossary should cover all the acronyms and the industry terms that are used in the document being written. These term explanations are used to help the user to understand the material being read. Technical glossaries should be written with the reader or user in mind and should never contain jargon or words that the reader will not understand. They are meant to provide meanings and understanding of the paper or book and of the industry overall. Shorter glossaries can be used at the front of the document before the table of contents to give the reader an added advantage before pouring through the document.

A longer or larger glossary should be placed at the back of the document for clarification of terms when the reader needs to specify something that they have read throughout the document. When you are writing a technical glossary it is vitally important that you match the level of the technical language being used with the audience that you will be speaking to. In other words, you should match the language to the level of proficiency of the readers. It is a good rule of thumb to underestimate the knowledge that your readers have rather than to overestimate it. If you are unsure of the level of proficiency of your target audience, then be sure to tone your technical glossary down just a notch or two to give your readers full comprehension of your paper or book. If you find it necessary to define a fairly large number of terms, then you should use a glossary to supplement the definitions within the text. This will make your document much easier to read and your readers will find themselves understanding your text much faster.

You may also find that when you are writing certain procedures or terms, it is helpful to use the active voice. Address your user directly by using “you” or “we” rather than saying things like “the user” or “people”. This is particularly helpful when you are explaining an action throughout your document or trying to explain a specific procedure to your reader audience. It may also be helpful to use indenting text, columns for text layout and to provide illustrations or photographs when you are attempting to highlight key areas within the text. Using different font types and features such as italics or underlines also help to capture your readers attention and to keep them focused on what they are reading.