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NOVICE NOTES

Novice Notes
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Resources

Let me Talk You Out of Indexing

Process of Indexing a Book

The Business End

Marketing Yourself

Peer Review Example

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Martha Osgood
Indexer
541.484.1180

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PROCESS OF INDEXING

Table of Contents of All Six Novice Notes pages:

1. Resources to help you decide whether you want to index books or not - profiles of indexers in general, ASI, PNW, AUSSI, SI and chapter sites, discussion lists, software sites, indexing courses, income expectations, kinds of indexing, Is Indexing Really for YOU?

2. Let me talk you OUT of it - expenses, equipment, cost of courses, speed of indexing, brain agility ("Quick, give me three perfectly nuanced synonyms for XX"), moonlighting, self motivation, slowness of getting started, marketing yourself, irregular income, most index as supplemental income, organization, details, no feedback...

3. What does indexing look like from the inside? Sample step-by-step process of indexing (not a lesson in indexing), indexing sins, strategy, secret notes to yourself in the draft versions of the software, groups/grouping, other editing processes, timing, deadlines, some aspects are boring and solitary. Consider indexing a whole favorite book (and then asking your friends to use it while you watch) before investing in software or courses...

4. The Business of Indexing - a sample business plan (very informal), what to do between USDA lessons, skill building practice ideas, your desk, administrative background tasks, pricing and productivity, reference books.

5. Marketing Yourself - creative marketing ideas, one of several accepted processes for marketing your indexing business.

6. Peer reviews of indexes for purposes of continuing education, determining one's progress, quality control, submitting a more polished product to a publisher, etc.

Outline of this Process page:
Reading and marking, organization and planning strategies, editing, spell-checking, hidden text in the index, paper books vs online books, saving to disk, editing processes, peer reviews, etc. (Note: this is not a lesson; it is the merest of outlines).

From ISO 999, "Information and Documentation--Guidelines for the Content, Organization and Presentation of Indexes":

The function of an index is to provide the user with an efficient means of tracing information. The indexer should therefore:

a) identify and locate relevant information within the material being indexed;

b) discriminate between information on a subject and passing mention of a subject;

c) exclude passing mention of subjects that offers nothing significant to the potential user;

d) analyze concepts treated in the document so as to produce a series of headings;

e) ensure that the terms used in the index are appropriate to the users of the index, so that the reader will:

1) quickly establish the presence or absence of information on a specific subject in an unfamiliar work;

2) quickly retrieve information on a remembered item in a known or partially known work;

3) quickly identify appropriate documents in a collection.

f) indicate relationships between concepts;

g) group together information on a topic that is scattered by the arrangement of the document;

h) synthesize headings and subheadings into entries; this synthesis may already be established in an authority file;

i) direct the user seeking information under terms not chosen for the index headings to the headings that have been chosen, by means of "see" cross-references;

j) arrange entries into a systematic and helpful order.

So - what is the process for achieving this?

Different types of books require slightly different processes, and indexers invent their own styles and systems, but this is an overview of what you can expect. It's a sample index process (which an indexer at Aldie Oaks first described and which I revised here to illustrate my own style) so you can better imagine the steps of indexing a book.

(By the way, the plural of "index" for books, journals and newspapers is "indexes"; the plural of "index" for graphs and benchmarks for economics for example, is "indices"; but the plural of "appendix" is always "appendices.")

I personally aim for no more than 100 pages a week for the total process (I do philosophy books, mostly - also known by indexers as "spaghetti"), but others do 300 pages a week easily. Either they are smarter or more efficient than I am (which is certainly possible and even probable), or their topics are less conceptual (= more specific, easier to "name", with fewer connections, links, synonyms, and relationships to doublepost and cross-reference).

While many of these procedures below are useful in doing smaller indexes, I find them essential when dealing with bigger (more than 300-page books) indexes. Furthermore, I require my own publishers to send me books on PDF format. Indexing without being able to use the PDF during the editing process (to search for or confirm collection of concepts that may not have been picked up as important in the first pass) is no longer acceptable to me. I literally turn down books if the publisher will not comply, claims ignorance or not enough time, or insists that I not use the best of the current technology.

For term selection, you might look at Sylvia Coates' article: http://www.asindexing.org/site/coatesarticle.pdf


SMITH PROCESS
A very effective process is used by Sherry Smith of Sherry Smith Indexing. She reads the book and begins indexing for structure on the first pass, deliberately leaving the details for the second pass. On the second pass through the text, since she has created the structure and can see it clearly (without the whole index obscuring it), she fills in the blanks, adds the names, does the doubleposting and cross-references, and polishes the index. This second pass takes more time than the first. Final editing passes take much less time, perhaps one or two are all that is needed (causing those of us who peer review her indexes to grind our teeth). There is more detail about this process in the book by Smith and Kells: Inside Indexing: the DecisionMaking Process.

ANOTHER PROCESS
1. Highlight/Mark indexable concepts and terms, including page ranges.
2. Begin to write out the metatopic (one sentence about the claim to be demonstrated by the author) as you go so to ensure the index is focussed to this topic. Keep changing it as you need to. The metatopic is the first imaginary index entry—everything else consists of sub- and subsub-entries to that topic, so everything needs to relate to it.
3. Enter terms and concepts, including page ranges. Review each chapter by pulling out index entries by section-pages or chapter-pages (e.g., pages 34-42, 42-48, 66-87, etc) of the text to see if doubleposting and cross-references are well formed, complete and accurate.
4. Edit for content and phrasing, use *groups* to be sure all connections are made (see boxed item below), review more sets of locators, confirm all names by hand. Edit with new passes as often as it takes to have peer reviews without a lot of red ink. Some can do this in two passes, others take 7-8 passes.
5. Run through your self-made Quality Control sheet (where are listed editing processes to verify, reminders of processes to check, and where usual "mistakes" are listed (ever-changing, often pointed out during peer reviews).
6. Spell check one last time, verify cross-references again, read through for doubled entries that should be blended. Submit to publisher, with invoice and query sheet, sending copy to yourself at the same time.

OTHER EDITING PROCESSES
a)
One indexer I know progresses through the alphabetic sections of his index, gathering and grouping words and parts of words to make sure every topic is properly connected to another reference to it. If the topic is Ferns, then at some point all references to any Ferns should be cross-referenced or subentried or doubleposted so that the reader finds them ALL without having to hunt. He uses curly brackets to make secret notes to himself that the software will still sort on; that way, when he asks for "fern" he will get all references to Lady Ferns, Boston fern, Ferndale, California, and Oregon WetFoot{fern} (he'll ignore the "Ferndale, California" entry). (See "grouping" in box below)

b) Another indexer gathers her index into sets of 4-5 locator ranges (i.e., she gathers by page ranges 123-128, then 129-133, then 134-137 or she gathers natural sections of the book) in ordinary index view - not in page number order - then compares the topics and wording she has indexed with the topics in the book again. She refines, groups, rewords, and edits in that manner. She sometimes also does a) above.

c) And another indexer in yet a different field trusts that she has accurately recorded all the concepts, and she edits only in the index - no longer using the text of the book - seeking to make the structure and choice of terms consistent and user-friendly.

ABOUT ANALYSIS IN THE INDEX

Ask your dedicated software program to find ALL references to the word or root "fern" in the index. In Cindex this is called FIND (for one at a time) and FIND-ALL (for all at once) from which you can make Groups. In other software, it may be called "grouping" or even something else. You should ask your program to give you a screen with JUST those and ALL of those entries on that screen (not one at a time, but ALL of them). If you can't figure out how to get this in your indexing program, ASK someone: it's that important.

Now you can compare the entries and consider rewording any headings and adjusting locators to avoid the indexing sin of scattered information.

a
b
c
d
e
f
g
h
i

Athyrium filix-femina{lady fern}, 32, 35-37
Boston ferns, 55-58, 142-143, 216
Ferndale, California, 88
ferns
---Boston, 142-143, 216
---Lady, 32, 35-37
---Oregon Webfoot, 142
Lady ferns, 32, 35-37
Oregon Webfoot{fern}, 142, 198-201

Notice here that the Boston fern entries are not consistent but, based on the heading phrasing, they should be. Compare the entries and add the missing locators 55-58 found in (b) to the (e) subentry. There is another example of the problem here, though. What is it, and how would you solve it? (Answer at bottom of page). (You'll also pick up, in this process, some entries that you won't need; for example, you would ignore the "Ferndale" entry.)

By enclosing the words "lady fern" in curly brackets (=secret notes to myself), I ensure it will be included when I ask my software for "lady" AND when I ask for "fern" in the Grouping/Finding process described above. The words in curly brackets won't show in the full view version of the index that I will send to my publisher. Although I do this with plants, I could do this in creating any type of group to prevent missing a pertinent term which I want to include in the group but which doesn't include the precise word being used for the rest of the group. I do this many, many times in the editing process - I remember to collect words throughout the inputting process to assist me when I get to the editing process. And sometimes this becomes verrrry boring. Repeat after me: "BOR-ring"

Indexer Janet Russell observes successful gathering from another perspective. She says on Index-L:

"I recently read Christopher Benfey's A Summer of Hummingbirds, which is about, among other things, the American artist Martin Johnson Heade. Early in the book, the author says, in passing, “With a visual intensity that rivals Monet, though with a precision far from the painterly expressiveness of Impressionism, Heade returned again and again to his simple repertory of forms: meadow, haystack, river, horizons, cloud, and light.”  The concept "Impressionism" didn't strike me as indexable, but the indexer had included it. At this point, it was a minor flaw. But as I continued to read, "Impressionism" or "French art" came up several times more, always in the context of Heade's increasing unfashionableness. None of these later references was indexed. The indexer missed an opportunity to underline a small point in the author's argument. It's something I wouldn't have noted if I had not read the entire book carefully. I still enjoyed the book itself."

Without this kind of analysis by the indexer, the index will have scattered information and can be annoying to the reader who wants to find ALL there is about a topic THE FIRST TIME. If a researcher is involved, this lack of completeness is more than an indexing flaw, it is a true loss.

In other words, THIS ANALYSIS is what we are called upon to provide in our indexes. Don't make the reader search the whole index for all the pieces of the concept they need. The Indexer should provide it for them in one place, or in one main place with cross-references pointing to the other aspects of the concept. If your software can't help you do this, get one that can before you call yourself a professional book indexer. (Cindex, Sky and Macrex can all do this, but Word cannot.)

I keep a whole list of items that I remind myself to use as I make editing passes (I often place that list into an index before even starting, and force sort the list to the top; as I complete the function as I edit each index, I erase the reminder. I call it my quality control checklist, and it keeps changing as my skills improve and my awareness of good indexing technique increases.

By the way, the ASI website includes award winning indexes that also break some obvious rules, though for good reasons.


I keep sane (and healthy) by the *Music Man* theory--

read a little, type a little, read a little, type a little
read, read, read,
type a lot, read a little more
read a little, type a little, read a little, type a little
read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read...

Bill Todd
BowTie Communications

TOP

If I have saved enough time for it, I ask for a Peer Review by other indexers on the PeerReview list (see at: http://www.YahooGroups.com/IndexPeers ) or from indexers locally, or from indexers online with whom I've become acquainted and who have agreed to trade peer reviews with me. (Note, all other parts of the book get proofread several times by several different people - the index is expected to arrive to the editor in perfect condition, so I plan to have another indexer look the index over carefully to make SURE there are no big mistakes).

GENTLE PEER REVIEW DISCUSSION GUIDELINES (used during face to face review groups with mixed levels of experience. Don't focus exclusively on "errors")

1. Is it easy to read the index? Do the words flow in sentence like structure or do you have to back up and re-read the entry? Point out some entries that work especially well.

2. Who are the probably readers for this book? What kinds of appropriate language has the indexer used? Point out some entries that indicate this audience.

3. What are the most basic topics? What has the indexer done to emphasize the importance of these topics? Choose several entries that demonstrate this technique.

4. What are the inter-connected discussions in the book? What has the indexer done to gather these connections?

5. Is the information widely scattered throughout the book - if so, choose several entries that indicate this characteristic. If the information is presented in the book in small, discrete discussions, choose several entries that indicate this pattern.

6. Has the indexer given you more than one route/gateway to the information in the book? Select a main entry and think of synonyms and similar phrases - can you find those in the index?

7. What do the cross-references tell you about this book? Why did the indexer use them? What do the double posts tell you about the book? Why did the indexer use them instead of a cross-reference?

8. In all of the above discussions, remember the basics of indexing:
- point the reader to the information that the author wrote (don't rewrite the book in the index)
- capture the "aboutness" of the discussions
- write clear and succinct entries
- gather related material (avoid the indexing sin of scattered information)
- create subentries when there are too many locators
- use cross-references to point the reader to similar information
- use cross-references to reflect the author's language
- use double posts if they are space efficient
- use the key word first as much as possible, and try not to invert
- avoid prepositions and conjunctions unless they are required for clarity
- be accurate with locators
- be consistent with the LEVEL of detail you choose to index
- remember the 339 other guidelines not listed here (see Mulvany, Wellisch, and Chicago 14)


On the other hand, when reviewing for ME, do NOT be gentle - give a strong review, then let me sort out what I can use or not. Don't hold back, DO focus on my errors. I deliberately check my ego at the door where getting reviewed/critiqued is concerned because Peer Reviews are the best way to determine if the lessons I try to put into practice in each new index are working. I grow as an indexer with each review, thanks to my toughest reviewers. Besides, I'd rather hear it from YOU than from my editor/publisher/author.

1. Are there any locator errors, such as "124288" or "124.288" instead of "124, 288"?

2. Can the reviewer see the meta-topic of the book from the index structure? Has the indexer provided a meta-topic sentence for the reviewer and does the index reflect that sentence?

3. Are keywords used well? Which entries show the best/worst form? Will the reader ever look this up by this keyword? And, what other keywords will the potential reader look for it under?

4. Are all the main entries nouns or gerunds? Are all nouns properly plural? Remember, some plurals will change the meaning of the word [for example: in an index about wigs, "hair" vs "hairs" are very different from each other. "Hairs" is not simply more than one "hair", and in fact, "hairs" implies even *fewer* of the items than "hair" does...]

5. Is information scattered through the index? Poorly doubleposted? Incompletely cross-referenced? Martha’s Greatest Indexing Sin is scattered information. The MAIN POINT of an index is that it organizes the information in the book so the reader can find a concept all in one place without having to read the whole index (or reread the book) to find all the parts of and references to that concept.

6. In one heading (main entry plus subentries), do any of the subentries say the same thing in different words and so should be reworded to put those two entries together? A good indexer is both a lumper and a splitter based on needs of the text.

7. Should any passing mentions be yanked from the index? Have I just been "taking notes" (translation: the "automatic pilot" of just putting terms into the index, rather than thinking about how the index will read to the reader, which words the reader will look up, and what relationships there are that are important to show in the index) or have I been THINKING?

8. Have I classified too much or not enough? Will the reader find the entry?

9. Could the structure be improved? How? What do you feel is missing? Does the index reflect the emphases of the book?

10. Is the structure of individual items consistent? Are the same kinds of words consistently capitalized? If there are modifiers on words, are they all done similarly (i.e., are all in parentheses or all followed by commas after the entries)? Are all the names with two initials written either with or without a space between the two initials? Are all instances of certain words spelled with a hyphen? What else should be consistently structured, and what should NOT be forced into an arbitrary consistency?

11. Do the cross-references make sense? Are they complete? None are circular? What about the general cross-references?

And finally, I keep the best suggestions from my peer reviewers (sample peer review in PDF format) in my Quality Control sheet for future attention.

I also send a query sheet to the publisher which includes a list of discrepancies and typos in the text, questions that I could not answer that might impact the index. (I generally do not comment on textual content although I did point out once that Coronado is not an island off San Diego).

I also prepare my invoice, mark the calendar with the date payment is due, and collect productivity information about that index. The productivity information helps me know what to charge for two column pages vs. one column, for lots of names vs. not, for foreign names vs. familiar names, etc., how long a publisher takes to pay, how long it takes me to do different kinds of indexes (pages per hour, etc) and how much I am making per hour/page/day/type of book for an index. I use that information to challenge myself to improve my timing and quality and hourly income. Some indexers snailmail their invoice to the client, but I send the invoice by email attachment.

** Answers to Question above:
You have left <choke> *scattered information* regarding Oregon Webfoot ferns. Complete information about this kind of fern is missing at one of its two locations but the reader will look at one entry and assume this is all there is because you have not told them there is more somewhere else. Your job therefore, should you choose to take it seriously, is to add locators 198-201 found in (i) to the (g) entry so that a reader who finds either entry will have ALL the information the book offers about that kind of fern, AND locators found in (b) to the Ferns entry in (e):

a Athyrium filix-femina{lady fern}, 32, 35-37
b Boston ferns, 55-58, 142-143, 216
c Ferndale, California, 88
d ferns
e Boston, 142-143, 216 (here you are missing locator: 55-58 from (b) )
f Lady, 32, 35-37
g Oregon Webfoot, 142 (here you are missing locator: 198-201 from (i) )
h Lady ferns, 32, 35-37
i Oregon Webfoot{fern}, 142, 198-201

Professional indexers who prevent scattered information make their indexes reader-friendly and keep the trust of their reader. THIS is a BIG part of the editing process of a good indexer. Back to the original example.

P.S. Review what Janet Russell has said above in relation to this example.

P.P.S. Use the FindAll process and Groups (one of the genius functions of the three major softwares) to check for consistency, locator integrity, and to avoid scattered information.

P.P.P.S. Consider the thought processes about gathering shown in this wonderful article (e.g., Laura's cookbook indexes):


Table of Contents of All Six Novice Notes pages:

1. Resources to help you decide whether you want to index books or not - profiles of indexers in general, ASI, PNW, AUSSI, SI and chapter sites, discussion lists, software sites, indexing courses, income expectations, kinds of indexing, Is Indexing Really for YOU?

2. Let me talk you OUT of it - expenses, equipment, cost of courses, speed of indexing, brain agility ("Quick, give me three perfectly nuanced synonyms for XX"), moonlighting, self motivation, slowness of getting started, marketing yourself, irregular income, most index as supplemental income, organization, details, no feedback...

3. What does indexing look like from the inside? Sample step-by-step process of indexing (not a lesson in indexing), indexing sins, strategy, secret notes to yourself in the draft versions of the software, groups/grouping, other editing processes, timing, deadlines, some aspects are boring and solitary. Consider indexing a whole favorite book (and then asking your friends to use it while you watch) before investing in software or courses...

4. The Business of Indexing - a sample business plan (very informal), what to do between USDA lessons, skill building practice ideas, your desk, administrative background tasks, pricing and productivity, reference books.

5. Marketing Yourself - creative marketing ideas, one of several accepted processes for marketing your indexing business.

6. Peer reviews of indexes for purposes of continuing education, determining one's progress, quality control, submitting a more polished product to a publisher, etc.

Back Words Indexing
Martha Osgood, Indexer
541-484-1180
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