Anyone can create an index, right? Not exactly. It is true that anyone with the right software can create a concordance for a book. However, this does not mean that anyone can or should create an index for your publication.

Here's why. A professionally created, custom-made index offers your readers more than a concordance, which is only an alphabetized list of words at the end of a book. The custom-made index is an intuitive map for your readers; it helps readers navigate through your book quickly and efficiently. This is because a professional indexer anticipates the needs of your readers in a way that concordance generating software simply cannot do.

Trust a professional indexer. After reading your book, I can create a custom-made index to your specifications with my professional indexing software. This index will give your book even greater appeal in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace. The casual reader and serious researcher alike will return to your book again and again because it contains meaningful information that is easy to locate in its custom-made index.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

And that's what I've been saying all along...Database/open indexing vs. Back-of-the-book/closed indexing

Occasionally an author asks why some page numbers for certain entries have been omitted in the final index. This is an excellent question that many professional back-of-the-book indexers (like myself) often answer. The answer to this question comes from understanding the differences between database/open indexing and back-of-the-book/closed indexing. Professional indexer and taxonomist, Heather Hedden, clearly defines these differences in her post, "Manual Indexing-A Skill That Lives On":
"In database indexing, the unit that is to be indexed and to which index terms are assigned or tagged is predefined, typically as a document, file, web page, or chunk of text that has already be captured into a data field. In back-of-the-book indexing, on the other hand, the unit that an index term points to is totally variable and fluid. It could be a couple of sentences, a paragraph, several paragraphs, or a section, and it can be confined to a single page or span a range of pages. It is the indexer’s judgment as to what constitutes the range of text to be described by an index term."

Simply put, in back-of-the-book/closed indexing not every instance of each index term within the book is index-worthy. Such instances are called "passing mentions," and this means there is no substantive information regarding that term on that specific page. Therefore, that page number does not appear in the index entry for that term.

This may seem like a very subjective approach to back-of-the-book indexing, but it is a necessary one. An index that points its users to many "passing mentions" is no help at all, but a selective, carefully crafted index gives credibility to both the author and back-of-the-book indexer alike.

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