Re: hiring an indexer

Subject: Re: hiring an indexer
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- FS -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Sat, 31 May 1997 22:19:53 +0800

Melissa Hunter-Kilmer <mhunterk -at- BNA -dot- COM> wrote:
> The main thing I have learned about indexing is that it is a skill
> separate from writing. Even if your app does an automated index thing,
> that doesn't mean you don't need an indexer. The app cannot do as good
> a job on this as a human.

And it's worth saying that the writer probably can't do as good a job as
a professional indexer. It's tempting to think "I wrote it, I know my
audience, I know the material, therefore I know best what terms should
go in the index and how they should be structured."

If you find yourself thinking this, the recommended treatment is to say,
ten times:

"I'm the programmer. I know the code, I know what the users
want, they're just like me. I can knock out the manual at the
end of the project. It can't be too hard, and what does it
matter anyway, nobody reads manuals. . ."

Replace 'programmer' with engineer, scientist or SME, and you have a
useful nostrum for all fields of technical writing.

I subscribed to the index-l listserv for a couple of months. It's an
interesting list -- as friendly and helpful as this one, but smaller
and more focussed & businesslike. I got the impression they react to
"helpful input from the author" they same way we react to helpful
suggestions from our developers about spelling, grammar, structure,
style, etc.

Stuart Burnfield
Functional Software Pty Ltd
mailto:slb -at- fs -dot- com -dot- au

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