Re: Training & manuals with product roll-out

Subject: Re: Training & manuals with product roll-out
From: Lori Lathrop <76620 -dot- 456 -at- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 10:52:13 EST

In response to Dick Dimock ((red -at- elsegundoca -dot- attgis -dot- com), who said:
> [snip]
> Master Index, which lags Final date by 1 month. It ties together all
> book indexes into one overall index. User can find which
> book to look in. This is nightmare country, because no
> two writers index the same, terms are slightly different, etc.
> We make a manual edit pass of the Master Index book itself,
> then go back and correct index entries in EACH of 40 books
> to recompile into the improved Master Index. Help, LORI!!
> (Lori Latham taught us indexing. It did improve our skills.)
> [snip]

Dick -- Ouch! It's Lathrop (not Latham)! Anyway, creating a good master
index is a huge challenge, whether all of the manuals in the product
library have indexes created by the same writer or by multiple writers.
BTW, not only do no two writers index the same, but even the same writer
will make somewhat different choices at different times. In other words,
if you index a book today and you have to index the same book a few
months from now (without looking at your original index), the two indexes
would undoubtedly have many differences. But ... I digress.

About master indexes ... 40 books in a product library is a LOT. Even if
you have the luxury (which you don't) of a full-time editor devoted to
ensuring consistency in style, terminology, etc., you're likely to find
many inconsistencies. A good editor really is the key because the editor
sees all of the manuals and, therefore, can minimize inconsistencies in
large product libraries and master indexes. Still, no matter how much
effort goes into editing the index for each manual, you'll encounter some
inconsistencies when you generate the first draft of the master index.
Then, of course, you must correct the problems in each of the 40 indexes
and recompile the master index. Chances are, you'll need to repeat this
step several times, especially if the product library is as big as yours
is. As you well know, this is a tedious process; however, it's really the
only way to produce a quality master index.

About editors ... IMHO, they are worth their weight in gold. However,
I've discovered that many companies eliminate editors when they downsize
(err ... excuse me ... "rightsize"), and I think that's a huge mistake;
however, I'll spare you the whole soapbox speech now.

Some tips for developing master indexes:

* The writers should index as they write, while concepts and
relationships are fresh in their minds.

* The editor (or master indexer) should collect indexes from each
writer as early in the writing cycle as possible and identify
inconsistencies in style and terminology early in the process.

* The editor should communicate any problems to the writers
and provide the writers with a list of preferred terms.
This is a type of vocabulary control that is invaluable
in planning a master index.

* Each writer must make the corrections, as instructed by the
editor, to each product manual. This step saves both the
writer and the editor (or master indexer) much time later in
the cycle.

* When writers send drafts to reviewers, the editor (or master
indexer) should review the index for consistency, exhaustivity,
completeness, accuracy, etc. Then, by the time the final draft
goes out for review, the index is in pretty good shape and the
task of creating a master index isn't such a nightmare.

Hope this helps. If you have any other questions, please let me know.

Happy indexing .... Lori
Lori Lathrop ----------> INTERNET:76620 -dot- 456 -at- compuserve -dot- com
Lathrop Media Services, P.O. Box 3065, Idaho Springs, CO 80452
Office: 303-567-4011 / Home: 303-567-9533

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