What is a Term Glossary and Why do You Need One?


Writers of any publication, be it a book, other publication, website contents, or even translations would include words and terms that would bear meanings to what they would imagine at the time of compiling the piece. Readers and website visitors would need to comprehend and assimilate what has been written in the same context. This would be difficult because the human mind would act in strange ways at different times.

A glossary is also referred to as a vocabulary or a clavis and forms an important part of any publication, whether it is a book or content in a website. It would immensely help the reader or a website visitor to understand the meanings and the definitions of terms and words used in the publication.

This may be a psychological way of looking at certain things written for various reasons of which the meanings and definitions could be quite different from what we would be able to understand. It is to leave out any confusion that may arise that a glossary of such terms and words which could cause confusion that is included in a term glossary at the end of the book, publication or website. 

A glossary is a list of words set in alphabetical order of terms and sometimes phrases that are used in a book or other publication. Words and terms that are rarely used in common writing and included in any publication are listed at the end with its meanings to facilitate a better understanding, in the context in which they have been used in that particular publication.

The glossary would list out these words and also refer to where they have been used and provide the meanings especially pertaining to the publication under review. This would generally be an indication that the word or term used could have another meaning in a different context and hence the need to elaborate on its meaning.

The glossary would help to better understand the meaning of the word in the publication and leave out any anomalies if there are any. A dictionary would be a different aspect altogether and would be similar to a glossary but not the same thing.

A glossary would be used in online websites too where content is written especially with the use of high-end technical words and phrases could be referred to, so that the user could understand it in the context it has been written. Sometimes without glossary readers or users would be at a loss to understand some of the terms and phrases. That could also cause confusion whilst it would also be detrimental to the proper understanding of what has been written.

There are many words especially in the English language which would have two tongued meanings and if the wrong understanding is entered in the English language any translation would also have a difference in meaning. It is to categorically avoid and refrain from always being obliged to provide meanings that the glossary is included in the publication or the website.

It is often included at the end, with ease of reference, which would enable any reader or website visitor to comprehensively understand all content and text included. There are also some words, terms and phrases which would have tongue-twisting pronunciations and which are not used frequently in general practice. These would be quite confusing to readers and website visitors. A glossary would apprise them on its use and the meanings and definitions.

A glossary could be construed as an important appendix to any book or publication because without it understanding what transpired through the mind of the writer at the time it was written would be difficult to understand. Websites use highly sophisticated terms and words, especially in the information technology platform. Understanding them could be quite a difficult task hence a glossary would be imperative.

The absence of a glossary would not only bring a poor understanding of what has been written but would also make the written piece uninteresting to many. This would be because of the difficulty in reading and fully understanding what has been written by the writer.

Websites employing translations would carry words and terms which are way beyond the comprehension of average website visitors and hence would need a glossary to ensure the written piece is fully understood. Some websites would provide glossaries of both the original text as well as the translations too. The same issue encountered by the readers of the original would also filter down to the translated text, content or others.

Whatever is written needs to be read and understood and if that is not possible the whole purpose of writing anything on any subject would be lost. It would not serve the purpose of writing the piece or on reading it, hence comprehensive understanding is necessary.

Term Glossaries perform an important task in any publication and especially in websites and their translations hence ensuring it is included would be imperative. If a publication or a written content does not carry a glossary it could lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary issues. Websites use many words that have been recently derived to give meanings and definitions to many subjects.

These subjects would range from digital marketing to science and technology and other specialized subjects. The absence of a glossary would see website visitors groping in the dark not fully knowing what to make of these new words and phrases. When there is advanced technical jargon which has become common in most of what is written today especially on subjects that are not often discussed on popular forums understanding them could be a problem.


It is imperative especially from the viewpoint of every writer to ensure that what has been written is fully understood by the reader of that particular piece. To enable this it would be prudent to include a glossary and obliterate any such confusion or anomalies. The next time you visit a website and there are terms and words that you are unable to understand it would be easy to refer to the glossary to derive its definitions or meanings.      

Also, read The Basic Elements of Professional Proofreading