Guidelines for Key Words?

Subject: Guidelines for Key Words?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, CapDev Communications <capdev -dot- communications -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 06 Jul 2006 09:03:32 -0400

Pat Egan wondered: <<This might seem like a simple matter...>>

If it were, there wouldn't be a profession named "Indexer". Anyone could do it. <g>

<<... but I am wondering if anyone on this list has had experience with protocols or guidelines for assigning key words to documents.>>

I've done a bit of indexing. I'm not a pro, but based on the feedback I've received, I am a pretty good amateur. The first thing you should do is get a good primer on indexing, such as the one in the Chicago Manual of Style, and summarize the key points for your authors. Things like "use the actual key word that appears in the document and provide at least one synonym". Keep this simple--list the five most important points, for example. Anything more and people won't read it. You could also consider providing training in indexing, but even so, provide the short list as a post-training reminder.

<<I am working with a group of document owners who have had a rather frustrating experience with a database that was supposed to facilitate document retrieval via key word searches. The document owners were given no guidance and the results were poor.>>

One thing that helps a lot is to develop a list of keywords, and keep expanding it as you add documents with new and different contents. This lets people pick words from a list if they lack inspiration and if a word already exists. (Indeed, if you're working within a database, it's easy to set up a "pick list" so they can choose existing words rather than having to type them and possibly introduce typos. If you're already working in a database, database solutions would work well; if not, simply maintain an alphabetical list in a Word file and make that available on the network.

Better still, find someone in your team who has good indexing skills and ask that person can assign the keywords--or to serve as the person who reviews and approves all keywords. If you have an editor in your group, they'd be a good choice for this; we editors are nuts for consistency, and since we get to see and review every document, we're a logical choice for this role. If you have a corporate librarian (not common, but I've always worked for research institutes with a library), ask them to take on this role. They can also provide expert advice on classifying and filing documents.

You'll also need to assign someone to periodically "clean" this database of keywords... less necessary if the person who creates it in the first place is an editor, but still necessary. Databases gradually accumulate garbage and inconsistencies, and need to be cleaned up. In a database, it's easy to generate a list of "keywords added since [date]", and focus on that list. When this person finds problems, they should also go to the original document that contains the problem keywords and fix that.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - --
Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


WebWorks ePublisher Pro for Word features support for every major Help
format plus PDF, HTML and more. Flexible, precise, and efficient content delivery. Try it today!.
Doc-To-Help includes a one-click RoboHelp project converter. It's that easy. Watch the demo at

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- infoinfocus -dot- com -dot-
To unsubscribe send a blank email to techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to lisa -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Guidelines for Key Words: From: CapDev Communications

Previous by Author: Extracting text from Visio?
Next by Author: What do you call the person who reviews/approves outlines?
Previous by Thread: Re: Guidelines for Key Words
Next by Thread: OED says you CAN 'google'

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads