The Trouble of An Index

Wed, Aug 30 2017 12:43pm IST 1
falcieri
falcieri
63 Posts
For those writing something that requires an index, how do you do it? Is it literally a case of scanning for each word you think requires a reference or is there a piece of software that can do it for you?
Wed, Aug 30 2017 02:52pm IST 2
Caducean Whisks
Caducean Whisks
2387 Posts
Doesn't your word processor do it?
I think Word has such a function, as does Mac Pages, and probably others. Mind you, I don't know how well they do it, but it's a start.
They also create a Table of Contents for you, if you've marked the chapters in the right format.
The advantage is that they'll adjust the page numbers automatically on teh ToC if you decide to add/subtract a chunk of text, or repaginate.
It takes a bit of getting used to, but in your case, worth having a go.
Wed, Aug 30 2017 03:23pm IST 3
falcieri
falcieri
63 Posts
I've sorted the contents page which automatically does the renumbering and headings so that's fine. For the rest of it, I'm using the poor man's version of Word (WPS) which has most of Word's functions but I'm not sure about indexing. It does a word count but that's not the same as indexing.
Wed, Aug 30 2017 03:44pm IST 4
sirtanicmills
sirtanicmills
826 Posts
Sorry if I'm suggesting things you have already done, but I would try "Help" in WPS first, then Google, then a WPS topic group. If that doesn't show results in a few minutes I'm guessing the answer might be "no can do".

If that's the case, could you copy the whole lot into (say) Word and index it there?
(Assuming you can get access to a (say) Word programme.)
Sat, Sep 2 2017 09:35pm IST 5
falcieri
falcieri
63 Posts
I did all that. WPS sadly, for all its brilliance, doesn't always carry all of Word's great features and this is one of them. It doesn't do grammar checks either though it does spelling, word count and thesaurus. I've started using Grammarly which is great but you have to watch the American dictionary! As my book falls into chapters which neatly put people into their chronological ordeer, finding content shouldn't be too difficult so I might skip the index as it's not so academically based that it would need one. I am going to think on it for a bit longer. I don't know how useful it will be although my heart often sinks at no-fiction books that don't carry an index.
Wed, Sep 6 2017 09:47am IST 6
Tony
Tony
2734 Posts
Does WPS have 'Find' where it will find every location of a particular word? You could use that for a select list of special words that you wish to index. You could then add an 'End note' to each occurance (does WPS do end notes?) You'd finally have to rearrange all the end notes under the headings of each of your special words. A bit fiddly but it should work.
Thu, Sep 14 2017 03:24pm IST 7
falcieri
falcieri
63 Posts
That was going to be my second option. I was hoping to bypass it but I will look into it. I'm still in two minds as to whether I really need an index but I have to play with the methods first to see if it's worth the effort. Thanks for this! :)
Thu, Sep 14 2017 08:26pm IST 8
EmmaD
EmmaD
3361 Posts
Indexes made by machines are hopeless, because they don't know the difference between a passing mention, and an entry that is actually some use to the person searching for the word.

Make a list of the headwords that readers will actually want to be looking up. Buy a packet of index cards, and write one of those words on each. Then read the book, and when you come to a substantial mention, put the page number on the relevant card. If you want to make the index really, genuinely useful, then for those headwords with several page numbers, add a single-word note. An index which has 52 pages numbers under a given headword, but nothing to tell you what each refers to, is virtually useless.

Put the cards in alpha order, and type them up.

It'll take you a day, max, and what's a day, in the timescale of writing a whole book?
Thu, Sep 14 2017 08:34pm IST 9
sirtanicmills
sirtanicmills
826 Posts
That makes so much sense, Emma. I sometimes worry that we are losing the ability to do stuff sans IT. Whenever did a technological advance generate so much change? Wheels and gunpowder don't come close imo.
Thu, Sep 14 2017 08:41pm IST 10
Caducean Whisks
Caducean Whisks
2387 Posts
It takes me a bit longer than a day to read a book, especially one that wants thinking about and notes writing.
But then I'm ever so slow :-D

However, I completely agree that low-tech solutions can often be the best and least stressful.
I also agree that in the time taken to ponder how-to-do-it via I.T., the book could have been read, annotated and indexed.
That is until you insert a paragraph somewhere, of course, and throw out the pagination. Now THAT is dreary.

Instead of an index, you could perhaps write a short synopsis of each chapter - 70 words or so - so that the reader can find the bit they want? Put it in the table of contents, or at the end?
Thu, Sep 14 2017 09:08pm IST 11
EmmaD
EmmaD
3361 Posts
I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, and the difference a real, human-made index makes to how easy they are to use is astonishing!

I didn't do the index for Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction, it was done by a pro, which I was half grateful for (they weren't paying me enough!) and half sorry for, as I'd have been very interested to find out how you do it. And then a non-fiction-writing friend told me the above ...
Fri, Sep 15 2017 08:29am IST 12
Jenni Belsay
Jenni Belsay
693 Posts
Thanks for that, Emma. Very useful.

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