Friday, January 4, 2013

Indexing from A-Z Second Edition - Hans Wellisch

Indexing from A-Z Second Edition
Hans H. Wellisch
H. W. Wilson
Copyright: 1995
ISBN: 978-0824208820

The jacket blurb:
Like its highly praised predecessor, the second edition is intended to be of help to authors, students and beginning indexers, as well as to experienced practitioners and specialists. Covering not only back of the book indexing but also the indexing of periodicals and nonprint material, the second edition cites the newest standards in the field, treats new topics like automatic indexing and the indexing of legal and medical texts, and updates many other sections, including the extensive bibliography.

The book is arranged alphabetically in articles that cover all aspects of indexing, including such topics as alphabetical, chronological and classified order of entries, automatic indexing, corporate names, cumulative indexes, exhaustivity, keywords, the indexing process and its techniques, legal and medical texts, length of indexes, natural and controlled languages, personal and place names, proofreading, specificity, string indexing, technical manuals and reports, and thesauri.

Also addressed are topics of interest to professional indexers, such as author-publisher-indexers, relations, contracts, copyright, costing equipment, fees, reference works, and typography.

In all sections, ample cross-references lead users to related issues, and thus to the broadest possible treatment of a topic.

The book is replete with practical examples of correct and incorrect indexing, always citing the latest national and international standards and recommended practices, as well as references to the professional literature, listed in an extensive bibliography.

Tables and figures address such matters as the number of index lines on a page for different type and page sizes, a comparison of indexing time using cards versus a computer, proof correction marks, indexing typography, KWIC and KWOC indexing etc.

 OK, I have to be honest here. 1995 is fairly old at this point. There will be things that are out of date. However, the book is still an invaluable resource for a beginning indexer in my opinion. It's still recommended in the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. Not to mention a number of websites, including several of the various indexing societies.

I liked the alphabetical arrangement. For reading it's a bit jarring, jumping from topic to topic, rather than a linear progression, but the cross-references make it easier to follow that progression if that's the way you want to read it. On the other hand, that layout makes it very easy to look something up for later reference. It also makes it easier to skip topics if they're not what you're interested in at this point. For me those were topics like legal and medical reference books.

Each topic is explained in detail, which is why I think this is going to be a useful reference when I run into issues in the future.

There was one moment when I found myself laughing at the book. Namely when in the topic of "Fiction" he claims that The Lord of the Rings is lacking an index but needs one. There is an index at the end of The Return of the King, and has been in every edition I've seen. I shouldn't quibble though.

Overall, Indexing from A-Z, while an expensive book is one that's well worth adding to any indexers reference library. At least, that's what I think. More experienced indexers may feel otherwise. Still, this is a book I've seen recommended in a lot of places.
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