Indexing primer

Subject: Indexing primer
From: Joan Stout <sasjcs -at- UNX -dot- SAS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1993 14:34:46 EST

> >I would appreciate it if anyone out there could provide me with a
> >reference for a good primer on indexing. Thanks.
> >
> >Robert

> That's: Robert Cianchette,
> Davidge Data Systems Corp.
> rmc -at- davidge -dot- com

Hi. I make two-thirds of my living at SAS Institute, writing software
manuals. The other third of my living comes from freelance work as a
professional indexer. A while back, someone on misc.writing asked
about textbooks and other information on indexing. I'm posting a copy
of that response - hope it's helpful.

| Joan Stout | I worked as a technical writer...editing |
| Technical Writer | manuals...on how to dispose of sewage in |
| and Indexer | permafrost; we all had to wear white shirts - |
| sasjcs -at- unx -dot- sas -dot- com | that was mandatory - and I was fired at the |
| SAS Institute, Inc.| end of two weeks for spending too much time |
| Cary, NC | staring out the window. (Edward Abbey) |

The traditional indexer's "bible" is _A Manual of Style_, commonly
known as the Chicago Style Manual or just "Chicago." It has a lot of
helpful information on indexing. However, it is incomplete and some of
it is outdated. They are currently working on a revised edition.

Another reference book with a section on indexing is _Webster's
Standard American Style Manual_. It complements "Chicago."

ANSI also has an indexing standard, and it is also being revised. Most
book indexers don't consider the current edition very helpful. As I
recall, it applies mostly to database indexing and thesauri.

_Indexing and Abstracting in Theory and Practice_ by F. W. Lancaster
(ISBN 0-87845-083-1) is a textbook. It won the 1992 award for best
information science book from the American Society for Information
Science. It's strong on theory, not as strong on practical information.

Another textbook is _Indexing from A to Z_ by Hans Wellisch. The blurb
I have here says it's "an encyclopedic work covering basic indexing
techniques, author-publisher-indexer relations, business considerations,
editing and proofreading, computer-assisted indexing, and many other
topics..." This book has lots of practical information, but its audience
is primarily the freelance indexer.

Information specific to technical material, such as software user guides,
is more difficult to find. I've seen articles in _The Editorial Eye_ and
in the newsletter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC).
Also, check the proceedings of the annual STC conference. They usually
have at least one paper or workshop on indexing.

Consider joining the American Society of Indexers (ASI). They have many
resources for indexers, including a newsletter and a journal. They also
have many local chapters, and the chapters frequently hold workshops
and seminars. For information: ASI Office, Kathy Caldwell, P.O. Box
386, Port Aransas, TX 78373, (512) 749-4052, FAX (512) 749-6334.

To get information on ASI publications, contact the ASI Publications
Sales Office at the same address. Publications include _Freelancers on
Starting and Maintaining an Indexing Business_, _Generic Markup of
Electronic Index Manuscripts_, _A Guide to Indexing Software_,
_Indexing: A Basic Reading List_, Indexing Biographies and Other
Stories of Human Lives_, and _Indexing from A to Z_.

I don't know of any exercise books, except for one that's included with
a correspondence course. The course is basic indexing, offered by the
Graduate School of the USDA. The workbook is very good, and I've used
it many times to train indexers. I don't have the address with me, but
I have it at home.

Finally, there is a listserv group for indexing. To subscribe, send a
message to LISTSERV -at- BINGVMB -dot- The body of your message should say
subscribe INDEX-L your name

Good luck with indexing.

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