A Bit About Indexing
I’m speaking about indexing at the Editors Hamilton-Halton twig’s March meeting. This is a brief summary of my presentation.
Indexing is equal parts creative and technical. Being able to look at the big picture while working with details, seeing connections between subjects, along with good judgement create a user-friendly index, which for big enough projects becomes a stand-alone creation. But even for those who enjoy it, at times it requires determination.
A single index is most common, but some compositions might work better with multiple indexes, such as court cases (names) and cookbooks (nutritional info).
Works that benefit from indexes are non-fiction books, textbooks, scholarly books, journals, complex reports, digital files, databases, websites, and manuals.
An index is made up of main headings, subheadings, sub-subheadings, locators, and cross-references. It’s always best to clarify with your client what they want and don’t want indexed, but generally speaking most parts of a project fall into 3 categories.
Introduction, text, and graphics
Preface, foreword, endnotes/footnotes, appendices, stuff in parentheses (citations, names)
References and bibliographies, acknowledgements, dedications, glossaries, lists of illustrations/graphs/tables
Every indexer has their own ways of undertaking an assignment. Here is my step-by-step approach to project management once I receive a prospective inquiry.
• Ask for a sample of the work, 4–10 pages, from the middle
• If the subject matter is unfamiliar, but you accept the project, become familiar with the genre
• Ask questions that the client hasn’t yet answered regarding # of words, things to be indexed, # of allotted pages, type of text/audience, # of authors, preferred style, dates, and any other preferences
• Confirm that editing is done by the time you receive the pages
• Create a simple contract if the client doesn’t have one
• A once read-through before mark up is ideal but not always feasible
• Mark up text and enter into indexing software, often at the same time
• Edit for length (if necessary), consistency, and clarity, including long strings of locators
• For long texts, keep in touch with the client during the project to save time in the end
• Format the index, send it off with a general message and the invoice
Determining the time necessary to complete a project isn’t so difficult if you ask many questions up front. Also, it gets easier with each project. Here are some factors that shape the amount of time that an index requires:
- # of words
- graphs/tables/maps/photos to be indexed
- complexity of work/# of entries per page
- familiarity with the subject
- software and typing skills
- client’s apprehension
- page limit
The 3 major indexing applications are CINDEX (Mac and PC), SKY Index (PC only), and Macrex (PC only). Most common formats for print are .rtf and .doc.
There are many resources out there for anyone wanting to learn or to keep current. The 3 books we used in the Indexing course at Ryerson were:
Facing the Text: Content and Structure in Book Indexing by Do Mi Stauber
Indexing Books by Nancy Mulvany
Indexes: A Chapter from the Chicago Manual of Style
Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (includes the indexing portion above); 17th ed. will be available in September
There are many more resources out there, and a good way to learn about new ones is to take part in online indexing groups and societies. Online groups are excellent platforms for posting questions and getting speedy responses. The following are some worthwhile resources, but there are many others found on LinkedIn, Facebook, and individual websites.
Indexing Society of Canada
Membership comes with The Indexer, an indexing journal issued 4 times per year. The 2018 ISC conference is taking place in Winnipeg, June 8-9.
American Society for Indexing
(Offers courses and webinars, and special interest groups.)
Indexers Discussion Group
ANZSI Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexing
Sky Index Yahoo Group
CINDEX Yahoo Group
I hope this was a useful overview to anyone considering indexing. Feel free to post any questions about indexing or indexes.