There is a widespread need for a common terminology in modelling for water quality management. This paper points out sources of confusion in the communication between researchers due to misuse of existing terminology or use of unclear terminology. The paper attempts to clarify the context of the most widely used terms for characterising models and within the process of model building. It is essential to the ever growing society of researchers within water quality management, that communication is eased by establishing a common terminology. This should not be done by giving broader definitions of the terms, but by stressing the use of a stringent terminology. Therefore, the goal of the paper is to advocate the use of such a well defined and clear terminology. (C) 1997 IAWQ. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.