Indexing

Subject: Indexing
From: "Geoff Hart (by way of \"Eric J. Ray\" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>)" <ght -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 1998 09:08:18 -0600

Gina Hertel wondered <<When you create a help topic, how many
synonyms for a task must you include in the index?>>

All together, now: "It depends!" <g> There's no fixed number, since
each concept will have a different number of labels you can attach to
it. I use the lazy indexer's rule of thumb for quick indexes: use
_at least_ the keyword, plus the most common two synonyms. If you
don't have good audience analysis information, you're pretty much
guessing about "most common", but you don't have much choice.

<<...one of the tasks for which I am creating a topic is entitled:
"Associating a Model with a Category" I've indexed this topic under
"Model," "Category," and "Associating" But, couldn't users also look
up: "Assigning a Model to a Category" "Relating Models and
Categories" "Linking Models and Categories" "Attributing Models to
Categories" Etc., etc.,>>

Yes, readers could look it up under each of those headings, and in a
thorough index, you'd probably want to use each of them, though the
index tends to expand as a result. One solution to reducing index
bloat: Where you have one preferred word (here, "associating") and
several synonyms, do something like "Relating: see Associating". This
both avoids having to repeat all the subentries under "relating", and
teaches readers what terminology the software uses consistently; as a
result, subsequent searches--and particularly full-text
searches--will be more productive. Of course, this assumes that
you're using consistent terminology throughout the software and the
docs. If not...
--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

When an idea is wanting, a word can always be found to take its place.--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


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