Pascoe ponders the index in the Chronicle of Higher Education

by Shaun Manning on April 26, 2012

Judith Pascoe, author of The Sarah Siddons Audio Files, dedicated a recent column in The Chronicle of Higher Education to the sometimes vexing subject of indexing, in particular the question of whether authors should index their own books or hire a professional.

“I had plenty of time to ponder the unsung heroism of indexers when I was finishing my latest book,” Pascoe writes. “I was overcome with thoughts of doom that Nancy Mulvany, author of Indexing Books, attributes to two factors that plague self-indexing authors: general fatigue and too much self-involvement. ‘Intense involvement with one’s book,’ Mulvany writes, ‘can make it very difficult to anticipate the index user’s needs accurately.'”

Pascoe describes delving into the different styles of indexes and indexing, and reading through Jan Wright’s award-winning index of Real World Adobe InDesign CS3. “The book’s index was not quite as scintillating as I had hoped, but I did catch frequent glimpses of Jan Wright’s sense of humor, for example, in her use of the catchphrase ‘accursed files’ as an index entry directing the reader to a page discussing QuarkXPress documents that InDesign has trouble converting.”

For the full essay–with a surprise ending–visit the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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