How to write a glossary

How to write a glossary

  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York City

A glossary is an alphabetized list of specialized terms with their meanings. In a proposition, report, or book , the glossary is usually situated after the conclusion. A glossary is likewise referred to as a “clavis,” which is from the Latin word for “essential.” “A great glossary,” states William Horton, in “e-Learning by Style,” “can specify terms, define abbreviations, and conserve us the shame of mispronouncing the shibboleths of our selected occupations.”

Value of a Glossary

” Since you will have various readers with numerous levels of proficiency, you need to be worried about your usage of modern language (terms, abbreviations, and acronyms). Some of your readers will comprehend your terms, others will not. If you specify your terms each time you utilize them, 2 issues will take place: you will insult modern readers, and you will postpone your audience as they read your text. To prevent these mistakes, utilize a glossary.”

( Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson, “Technical Composing: Process and Item.” Pearson, 2006)

Finding a Glossary in a Class Paper, Thesis, or Argumentation

” You might require a glossary if your thesis or argumentation (or, in many cases, your class paper) consists of lots of technical terms or foreign words and expressions that might be unknown to your readers. Some universities and departments permit or need the glossary to be put in the back matter, after any appendixes and prior to the endnotes and bibliography or referral list. Put it in the front matter if readers need to understand the meanings prior to they start checking out if you are complimentary to pick. Otherwise, put it in the back matter.”

— Kate L. Turabian, “A Handbook for Writers of Research Study Documents, Theses, and Argumentations, 7th ed.” The University of Chicago Press, 2007

  • ” Specify all terms unknown to a smart layperson. When in doubt, overdefining is more secure than underdefining.
  • Specify all terms that have an unique significance in your report (‘ In this report, a small company is specified as …’).
  • Specify all terms by providing their class and differentiating functions, unless some terms require expanded meanings.
  • List all terms in alphabetical order. Highlight each term and utilize a colon to separate it from its meaning.
  • On very first usage, put an asterisk in the text by each product specified in the glossary.
  • List your glossary and its very first page number in the tabulation.”

— Tosin Ekundayo, “Thesis Book of Tips and Samples: Under & Post Graduate Guide 9 Thesis Format consisting of APA & Harvard.” Idea Press, 2019

Ideas for Preparing a Glossary

” Utilize a glossary if your report includes more than 5 or 6 technical terms that might not be comprehended by all audience members. If less than 5 terms require specifying, put them in the report intro as working meanings, or utilize footnote meanings. If you utilize a different glossary, reveal its place.”

— John M. Lannon, “Technical Interaction.” Pearson, 2006

Collective Glossaries in the Class

” Rather of developing a glossary by yourself, why not have the trainees develop it as they come across unknown terms? A collective glossary can act as a centerpiece for cooperation in a course. Each member of the class might be appointed to contribute a term, a meaning, or discuss sent meanings. Several meanings can be ranked by you and by the trainees, with the highest-rated meanings accepted for the last class glossary. When trainees are accountable for developing the meanings, they are far more most likely to bear in mind the word and the proper meaning.”

— Jason Cole and Helen Foster, “Utilizing Moodle: Teaching With the Popular Open Source Course Management System, second ed.” O’Reilly Media, 2008

Development, imagination, vision and, above all, decision and group spirit, all this is Terms Coordination!


November 12, 2015 12: 48 pm


Taking a look at a terms card, do you understand what each field represents and what its function is? Cos’ รจ la terminologia e come si fa un glossario(What is terms and how to compose a glossary), by Hellmut Riediger, focuses on addressing a few of the concerns you may develop while developing a glossary entry.

To Start With, Mr. Riediger, a teacher at the Civica Scuola Interpreti e Traduttori in Milan, offers a meaning of terms, i.e. the “set of classifications coming from one unique language”. [ISO 1087:2000]

After a short intro on unique languages and on the history of terms, especially on the value that the web has actually had for its diffusion, he carries on to explain what a term is in addition to what relation lies behind the term itself, what the things and the principle is. To do so, he utilizes the semiotic triangle.

Contrary to what many people think, states Mr. Riediger, unique languages do not constantly depend on neologisms to form their vocabulary, however rather take existing terms and re-categorise them, therefore providing a brand-new significance. Terms can for that reason be divided into monosemic and polysemic types, the previous being homographs that have various significances within various domains and the latter being terms that have a single significance within a single domain.

Prior to explaining how a glossary is structured, Mr. Riediger recognizes 3 stages a terminologist needs to go through while composing it. Throughout the initial stage the work need to be arranged, the domain should be specified and appropriate files connected to the subject need to be evaluated. Throughout the following stage, the primary one, the terms are picked and verified in each language, and the terminological cards are submitted. Throughout the definitive stage, the glossary is ended up and all set to be released.

Beginning with the domain (medication, economy, chemistry …) and the subdomain (” psychiatry” might be, for example, a subdomain of “biological and medical sciences”), Mr. Riediger notes all the fields a terminological card might include: term, variations, meaning (and associated source), context (and associated source), synonyms, antonyms, notes, equivalents, dependability.

As a conclusion he offers 3 examples: a glossary in MS Excel, a card from SDL Multiterm and an entry in IATE … What we should not forget, in truth, is that although the basic concept behind each termbase may be the exact same, every one still has its own structure.

Composed by Maria Bregolato
Terms student at TermCoord

How to write a glossary

Efficient meanings of terms will not leave your audience with raised eyebrows. (Picture by M.C. Lester)

I do not learn about you, however I keep in mind a workout back in school that included composing meanings. I believe it was most likely connected to some sort of vocabulary-building function, however I frequently harken back to it when I’m doing meanings as information, or when I’m dealing with a glossary of terms, as I was today for a material library.

Here are the Gold Standards for a glossary of terms that’s really beneficial:

1. Serve your audience.

If you’re doing a glossary of terms for individuals experienced on your topic, you might have the ability to get away with consisting of technical terms in your meanings. The majority of glossaries are for individuals brand-new to the subject, so utilizing lingo to specify lingo or other customized term isn’t actually useful. Explaining something as “an alkylating representative utilized in mix with corticosteroids” is simply requiring the reader to do more looking. That’s not useful.

2. Usage plain language.

The point is to enhance somebody’s understanding, so prevent do not dress up your description. Keep it basic. Case in point: Do not explain anemia as “having a low hematocrit” due to the fact that you most likely require to discuss hematocrit, too. Rather: Anemia: A condition in which the body does not have sufficient red cell. Typically discovered with a hematocrit, a blood test determining the portion entire blood that includes red cell.

3. Do not utilize the word in the meaning.

I utilized to dislike this guideline in school, primarily due to the fact that I currently understood the meaning of the word. When you approach glossary-making from the reader’s point of view, you see how discouraging this can be. Nimble modeling session: A modeling session that follows the concepts and uses the practices of nimble modeling.(BTW, I didn’t make that up). If I do not understand much about nimble modeling or what goes on in a nimble modeling session, I sure as shootin’ could not figure it out from this.


4. Consist of examples and synonyms.

In some cases we can get all the details we require to comprehend a term by taking a look at its synonyms (and antonyms), so it assists to include them with your meaning. Exact same for instances, if you have actually got them.

5. Offer pronunciation pointers.

This is a little thing, however it actually assists to understand how to state the work properly. This is specifically essential for abbreviations that aren’t defined. We describe SPUG a lot– it’s our shorthand for spelling, punctuation, grammar and use. We do not spell it. No one here would call it S-P-U-G. We call it spug, like pug, or spud.

Attempt these pointers the next time you need to specify a term in your material or develop an entire glossary. It’s a bit more work, however the settle will be available in the kind of an informed and pleased audience.


Glossaries are plentiful. Whether they are official files, such as the United States’ National Institute of Standards and Innovation’s Glossary of Secret Details Security Terms, University of Oxford’s glossary of terms, or the University of California at Davis’ Insect glossary (revealed delegated right listed below), glossaries have a quite basic format to them.

How to write a glossaryHow to write a glossaryHow to write a glossary

In basic, glossaries are formatted like the one in the illustration listed below, with 3 essential entries:

How to write a glossary

1. Term Entry— This is the term that will be specified. Numerous glossaries will capitalize each word in the term. Others will just capitalize the very first word. The very best composed glossaries will not capitalize the term unless required by a particular design(we’ll have more on that in the glossary design guide area).

2. Acronym— Some glossaries will put the acronym on a line listed below the term entry. Others will merely follow the term entry with the acronym in parentheses. The worst glossaries will have entries of acronyms where the terms must be. Naughty naughty.

3. Meaning— And naturally you need to have the meaning. Like with this meaning for Personally Recognizable Details that starts with the classification of “details which can be utilized to trace a person or differentiate’s identity”, and after that follows up with separating material “name, social security number, biometric records”.

To compose glossary entries, follow actions 1 through 6 of how to compose meanings.