Re: Creating Indexes

Subject: Re: Creating Indexes
From: David Downing <DavidDowning -at- USERS -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 12:53:03 -0500

Your question seemed a bit open-ended, so I hope I'm addressing the point
you wanted addressed.

It sounds like you're looking for a tool that'll completely automate the
task of indexing your documents. Well, I'm a former technical services
librarian, and at the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, I don't
think totally automated indexing -- going through a document for every
instance of specified words and phrases -- is ever going to be totally
successful.. The reason is that the use of a given word or phrase doesn't
always equate with a reference to a given subject.

For example, consider the following two statements:

Error messages must be no more than ten words long.

If you see a series of error messages, you should stop the installation
process immediately.

Both statements use the phrase "error messages," but only the first one
actually * discusses * error messages. Furthermore, a person seeking the
information in the first statement is likely to look under "Length of error
messages," "Error messages, length of," or some variation that involves the
word "length" -- which the statement doesn't actually use.

I'm more comfortable with what I call the "semi-automated" method, in which
the writer embeds terms in the document and the indexing software searches
for the embedded terms. Since writers can do this as they're writing, it's
not a separate step, as it would be if they were doing it manually, and when
documents are revised, the process is almost totally automated because the
terms are already embedded.

Admittedly, the non-correspondence between words/phrases and topic
references is less of a problem in technical documents than in other types
of writing, but it's still there. It's inherent in the use of natural


> Subject: Creating Indexes
> We would like to improve the quality of these indexes and would
> like to find out any strategies or special software technical writers and
> editors may use.
> editors comb through the Quarks by hand
> Any leads on a better method would be greatly appreciated.

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