How to write an index Writing an index for your technical documents can be an intimidating task for a new technical writer. But for some audiences, and obviously for printed documentation, a good index is invaluable. For example, one system I document is an enterprise application. It includes hundreds of code tables, containing codes for customizing which fields are displayed on the screen, which types of invoices and other documents can be printed or emailed, and which users can access the various parts of the system.
McGuire Have you ever considered writing a nonfiction book? Whether your goal is simply to be a published author in a certain niche or you want to publish a book to promote your overall freelance writing business, your book might need an index.
How do you create a nonfiction book index? Can you and should you do it yourself, or should you hire someone? What kinds of tools would you even use to do this? I had the pleasure of interviewing Virginia C. McClure, a Philadelphia-based writer and book indexer about her process, whether or not indie authors should go the DIY route, and more.
Check out the interview below, and feel free to share your own experiences with book indexing or freelance indexers in the comments below. For those indie authors who consider taking on their own book indexing, can you give us a quick rundown of what's involved in the process?
An indexer combs through the book and identifies the subjects covered on each page or on a range of pages. For each subject, the indexer selects the best possible index terms. A good index term is what most readers would intuitively look for in the index. If there is more than one perfect term, the indexer creates cross-references to help point the reader to all the sections that cover a certain topic.
Some of the work of combing through the book looking for specific subjects can be done by searching the document for key words or proper nouns. But an index that was entirely computer generated would be incomplete. A human indexer can read between the lines, identify overarching themes, and draw similarities between multiple sections that discuss the same topic in completely different words.
A computer can only search for a string of characters. For example, in a book about 20th-century artists, a section about Violet Oakley might have index entries for women artists, muralists, and stained glass artists, among others.
How long would you say it takes you on average to create an index for a nonfiction book? Or does it vary greatly from one project to another and if so, what kinds of things affect that time commitment?
And what's the biggest challenge you've had to face in indexing a book so far? The time required does vary quite a bit. Some indexers still prefer to do the bulk of the work on paper, and then type up the index entries afterwards.
Some indexers read the entire book before they start indexing, while some dive right in and index as they read it for the first time. Some people work in a slow, deliberate way, but their indexes require almost no editing.
Some people do a quick first pass, and then spend more than half their time editing the index. It also depends on the project. A book written for a scholarly audience is typically denser, and has more index terms per page.
A book written for a popular, lay audience is fluffier and much quicker to index. I index several pages and time myself to estimate how long I think it will take me per page. I add in a generous amount of time for editing, and count the average number of index terms per page.
This gives me enough information to tell the author or publisher how much it will cost them to have me index the book.
The quotes are usually based on a per-page rate, and I only charge for indexable pages.
Some front and back matter is indexable, while some is not. And how long does it take to index a book? I have one client who publishes page books about gardening.
I can index one of their books in a few days. For a full-length book written for specialists, I like to have an entire month, although I rarely get that much time because of the way publishing calendars work. The time crunch is the hardest thing for me. I do a lot of freelance writing and work part time as a librarian.
That combination of skills--writing and librarianship--is what makes me such a good indexer. But being a writer AND a librarian also means my schedule is very full, and an indexing project arriving two weeks late can be a big challenge for me.
Because the index has to be done at the very end, after the book has been written, rewritten, edited, edited some more, copyedited, designed and typeset, the indexing schedule is vulnerable to being squeezed. But it can be thrilling to pull a successful index out of a tight window of time.Guidelines for the Preparation of an Index A well‐prepared index can greatly enhance a book’s usefulness to readers and researchers.
How to write an index Writing an index for your technical documents can be an intimidating task for a new technical writer. In fact, often we don’t include indexes in online help now, instead relying on the search function. How to Write a Book Report.
Writing a book report can be a lot of fun. It gives you a chance to read a new book and then tell your teacher and friends what you thought about it.
Aug 08, · Edit Article How to Write a Book. In this Article: Article Summary Sample Book Excerpts Getting Started on Your Book Writing a Novel Writing a Non-Fiction book Keeping Up Your Interest Community Q&A Anyone with a story to tell can write a book, either for their own enjoyment or to publish for all to see and buy%(). Guidelines for the Preparation of an Index A well‐prepared index can greatly enhance a book’s usefulness to readers and researchers. Writing Guides; Graduate Students. Dissertation Writing Groups; Writing Book Reviews. HTML PDF. Writing Resumes & Cover Letters. Make a strong impression when applying to jobs or graduate school with a well-designed resume and cover letter. HTML PDF. Writing Tutorial Services.
Aug 08, · Edit Article How to Write a Book. In this Article: Article Summary Sample Book Excerpts Getting Started on Your Book Writing a Novel Writing a Non-Fiction book Keeping Up Your Interest Community Q&A Anyone with a story to tell can write a book, either for their own enjoyment or to publish for all to see and buy%().
Interview on nonfiction book indexing with Virginia C. McGuire. Have you ever considered writing a nonfiction book? Whether your goal is simply to be a published author in a certain niche or you want to publish a book to promote your overall freelance writing business, your book might need an index.
See also Parts of the Book, below More on the order of parts of the book, Acknowledgments page, More on foreword, preface and introduction, More on Index.) What is the difference between a preface, a foreword, and an introduction?