Re: Indexing info

Subject: Re: Indexing info
From: Beth Kane <Kane -at- VENTANA -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 15 Mar 1999 10:21:34 -0700

-----Original Message-----
...what is the most important information about indexing
I can convey to these students?

Karen,
The most important things I can think of (at the moment) to teach them:

- Indexing is practically the most important thing about a book or a help
system. If the readers can't find the info they need, you've wasted your
time and the company's by writing it. Also note that people use indexes more
than TOCs because they're in alphabetical order. You need to spend a lot
more time on your index and worry less about your final TOC.

- Start indexing while you're writing. Don't leave it to the very end of the
project. It's too big a job. It's much easier to accomplish if you do it as
the project progresses.

- Think of as many synonyms as you can for possible ways people might look
up the info, and put them ALL in the index. Don't hold back! People need
help learning the terminology; don't expect them to know how to look
something up.

- Be sure to employ start and end ranges so the reader can tell which
sections are the most significant (sections with the longest page ranges are
usually the most useful).

- Don't be vague in any of your index entries. Use two or more words to tell
them what aspect of the item is being discussed. Readers don't want their
lookup time wasted.

- Be sure to leave markers turned on (View Markers option, in FrameMaker)
and tell anyone who will be editing the chapters to leave them turned on on
their machines too so they don't accidentally delete your index entries. You
could lose hours/days/weeks of work. This has happened to me repeatedly
because so many writers are stubborn about leaving markers turned on.

- Regularly regenerate your book, print out the index and review/edit it.
You may find you've been creating lots of entries in two different styles.
You can correct the styles then, which serves to remind you to add future
entries in the chosen style and save on final editing time. (Styles are a
whole 'nother issue to discuss!)

- Do the indexing yourself, but save time by using someone who's lower on
the totem pole in your dept. to do the index EDITING -- a junior writer or
an intern. You can teach them a lot about indexing if you mark up a hard
copy of your index and ask them to fix those entries. They might eventually
get good at indexing and then you can consider handing off more original
indexing duties to them. In my experience, though, some people "have it" (a
knack for GOOD indexing) and some just don't.

Beth Kane in Tucson
kane -at- ventana -dot- com
www.ventana.com

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