Indexing a 212 page tech document using WORD '03?

Subject: Indexing a 212 page tech document using WORD '03?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 12:58:47 -0400

Peggy Lucero reports: <<I am about to tackle my first indexing project.>>

Best of luck, and make sure to have someone (not you) carefully edit your index. You'd be amazed at what you'll miss the first time around--I sure was! If there's nobody around to help, you should instead let the index sit a couple days before editing it yourself. That much "distance" will help you spot problems you won't see with the index still fresh in your mind.

<<I am reading the chapter in the Sun, Read Me First! book.>>

Good resource, but consider looking at a more comprehensive guide such as the Chicago Manual of Style or even a book dedicated to indexing that can thus provide more detail than any general-purpose style guide can provide. Bonura and Mulvaney are two well-respected authors, and their books are usually easily available.

<<Basically, if someone has used WORD '03 and built an index for a technical document, can you give me any heads up/lessons learned/stuff to avoid?>>

Haven't used 2003, but as of Word 97, the software didn't provide a pick list of terms you had already used and doesn't spellcheck the terms as you enter them. This means that it's easy to introduce inconsistencies and outright errors over the course of a long indexing project. There are two solutions, both of which greatly improve consistency and comprensiveness:

First, enter all new words alphabetically in a file named "index terms already used" or something similar. Enter each new index word in that document, check the spelling (select the Word, then Command-Option-L on the Mac--thus presumably Control-Alt-L on the PC), then make any necessary corrections. If appropriate, add a note to the right of the term that says "always add the following synonyms or _see [also]_ cross-references when you use this term" and make the same note for each of the synonyms and cross-references. You can now copy correctly spelled existing index terms into the index dialog for the document being indexed. Control/Command-F6 switches between open windows, so you can easily bop back and forth between the document and your list of keywords, adding new ones not already in the list and copying proven, consistent solutions.

Second, generate the index after your first pass through the document and scan through it for lookalike words that appear close together in the list (e.g., selecting and selection). Decide which of the two is correct, then do a global search for the other form and replace it with the correct form. (Don't do a global replace; that can introduce unintended consequences.) This makes it easier to delete redundant terms.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Indexing a 212 page tech document using WORD '03: From: Lucero, Peggy

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