Inside Indexing:
The Decision-Making Process

by Sherry Smith and Kari Kells


Table of contents
for Inside Indexing

for Inside Indexing


Order Process

Kari's index
for Fodor's book

Sherry's index
for Fodor's book

Used in the Text

About the authors

Site Map

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Copyright 2006
Smith and Kells
Northwest Indexing Press

Quotes used in the text

"It is well documented that the same text, indexed by several indexers, will result in as many slightly or even substantially different indexes, and even the same indexer will produce varying indexes for the same text at different times."
~ Hans Wellisch

"Every word has three explanations and three interpretations."
~ Irish Proverb

"A hundred objective measurements didn't sum the worth of a garden; only the delight of its users did that."
~ Lois McMaster Bujold

"If it is an accepted rule, then I'm an unrepentant sinner, because more than once I've found it necessary to make one or more entries for a metatopic."
~ Linda Sutherland

"If it feels like I'm herding cats, it's probably not a great gathering point."
~ Sandy Farrell

Access Routes
"Any given word is a bundle, and meaning sticks out of it in various directions. "
~ Osip Yemilyevich Mandelstam

"Finding a name for something is a way of conjuring its existence, of making it possible for people to see a pattern where they didn't see anything before."
~ Howard Rheingold

"The only way a man can remain consistent amid changing circumstances is to change with them while preserving the same dominating purpose."
~ Winston Churchill

"There are many ways to be right."
~ Martha Osgood


Quotes not used in the text

We collected many quotes as we looked for a handful to use in the text. Some of the quotes that we chose not to use in the text are interesting (and fun) to consider in the context of indexing.

"All words are pegs to hang ideas on."
~ Henry Ward Beecher

"Language itself is as easy to nail as Jell-O. It changes all the time."
~ Wendalyn Nichols

"A word in a dictionary is very much like a car in a mammoth motorshow - full of potential but temporarily inactive."
~ Anthony Burgess

"The common faults of American language are an ambition of effect, a want of simplicity, and a turgid abuse of terms."
~ James Fenimore Cooper

"A definition is the enclosing a wilderness of ideas within a wall of words."
~ Samuel Butler

"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - 'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."
~ Mark Twain

"Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation."
~ Noam Chomsky

"Think of words as instruments characterized by their use, and then think of the use of a hammer, the use of a chisel, the use of a square, of a glue pot, and of the glue."
~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

"Words are not as satisfactory as we should like them to be, but, like our neighbours, we have got to live with them and must make the best and not the worst of them."
~ Samuel Butler

"Fumbling for a word is everybody's birthright."
~ Anthony Burgess

"The English language is an arsenal of weapons. If you are going to brandish them without checking to see whether or not they are loaded, you must expect to have them explode in your face from time to time."
~ Stephen Fry

"English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgement, and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street."
~ E. B. White

"Every word carries its own surprises and offers its own rewards to the reflective mind."
~ George A. Miller

"A writer writes from his gut, and his gut tells him what's good and what's... merely adequate."
~ Barton Fink character in Barton Fink

"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."
~ Rudyard Kipling

"Usage is the only test. I prefer a phrase that is easy and unaffected to a phrase this is grammatical."
~ W. Somerset Maugham

"Keep in mind that a language is both a map of the world and its own world, with its own shadowlands and crevasses - places where statements that seem to obey all the language's rules are nevertheless impossible to deal with."
~ David Foster Wallace

"Language follows its own path. It can bridge gulfs of class and geography in the most remarkable ways."
~ Robert McCrum

"Language is a form of human reason, which has its internal logic of which man knows nothing."
~ Claude Levi-Strauss

"The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for."
~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

"All my life I've looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time."
~ Ernest Hemingway

"If a people have no word for something, either it does not matter to them or it matters too much to talk about."
~ Edgar Z. Friedenberg

"If words are to enter men's minds and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped cunningly to pass men's defenses and explode silently and effectually within their minds."
~ J.B. Phillips

"This is the last thing she'll ever write. She'll want to cash in on as many fifty-cent words as possible."
~ J.D. character in Heathers

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use."
~ A. E. Hotchner

"All our words from loose using have lost their edge."
~ Ernest Hemingway

"A community is known by the language it keeps, and its words chronicle the times... Like the growth rings of a tree, our vocabulary bears witness to our past."
~ John Algeo

"As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests."
~ Gore Vidal

"Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words in a book or a newspaper the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt: it tingles exquisitely around through the walls of the mouth and tastes as tart and crisp and good as the autumn-butter that creams the sumac-berry. One has no time to examine the word and vote upon its rank and standing, the automatic recognition of its supremacy is so immediate."
~ Mark Twain

"Because language is the carrier of ideas, it is easy to believe that it should be very little else than such a carrier."
~ Louise Bogan

"Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language."
~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

"Writers today must navigate the shifting verbal currents of the post-Gutenberg era. When does jargon end and a new vernacular begin? Where's the line between neologism and hype? What's the language of the global village? How can we keep pace with technology without getting bogged down in buzzwords? Is it possible to write about machines without losing a sense of humanity and poetry?"
~ Constance Hale

"English is full of booby traps for the unwary foreigner. Any language where the unassuming word fly signifies an annoying insect, a means of travel, and a critical part of a gentleman's apparel is clearly asking to be mangled."
~ Bill Bryson

"Words are both better and worse than thoughts, they express them, and add to them; they give them power for good or evil; they start them on an endless flight, for instruction and comfort and blessing, or for injury and sorrow and ruin."
~ Tryon Edwards

"When ideas fail, words come in very handy."
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Words sing. They hurt. They teach. They sanctify. They were man's first, immeasurable feat of magic. They liberated us from ignorance and our barbarous past."
~ Leo C. Rosten

"The structure of an index is by design; it is not happenstance."
~ Nancy Mulvany

"It is the task of the index designer to make the best possible tradeoffs among these interacting options"
~ Jessica Milstead

"I think a lot more decisions are made on serendipity than people think. Things come across their radar screens and they jump at them."
~ Jay W Lorsch

"Making a choice is like backing a horse - in a hundred years, they may decide you picked wrongly."
~ Edward Carpenter

"Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free."
~ Paul Tillich

"Spend more time on choosing points of entry, on hierarchy (architecture, structure), and on succinct and explicit wording of entries and subentries. It creates a better quality index. Cut corners on time elsewhere if you need to."
~ Janet Perlman

"To study music, we must learn the rules. To create music, we must forget them."
~ Nadia Boulanger

"There is, therefore, wisdom in reserving one's decisions as long as possible and until all the facts and forces that will be potent at the moment are revealed."
~ Winston Churchill

"The indexing problem changes with each new book undertaken. To meet the needs of different classes of seekers and to suit various types of books, rules entirely satisfactory in one case must be varied in the next and perhaps ignored or even reversed for a third... Indexing is a highly complex intellectual process involving the use of language in a specific and somewhat artificial way, and that it is also to a considerable extent a matter of intuition, the workings of which cannot be reduced to fixed rules. It is 'knowing what but not knowing how'."
~ Hans Wellisch

"We know that we can do it, but cannot describe in so many words how we do it, nor can we reduce it to a set of rules. At most, the observable facts of the indexing operation can be described."
~ Hans Wellisch

"What a discourse speaks of, - that is, what it mentions by name or description-, are amongst its extensional properties. What discourse speaks on, - that is, what it is about-, is amongst its intentional properties. This, its topic, cannot be determined solely from what it mentions."
~ Fairthorne

"... importance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and that there is nothing inherently "logical" about the preference of users in looking for one component rather than another of a compound heading."
~ Hans Wellisch

"Every question does not deserve an answer."
~ Publius Syrus

"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do."
~ Edgar Degas

"You cannot not communicate."
~ Dr. Rhoberta Shaler

"Techniques don't produce quality products or pick up the garbage on time; people do, people who care, people who are treated as creatively contributing adults."
~ Tom Peters

"People have one thing in common: they are all different."
~ Robert Zend

"Save the time of the reader, for it is valuable"
~ SR Ranganathan

"The best audience is intelligent, well-educated, and a little drunk."
~ Alben W. Barkley

"A well written index anticipates the reader's viewpoint and accurately reflects the content of the material."
~ Gerry Lynn

"... there is no such thing as "the user". Users... come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and they have widely varying information needs..."
~ Hans Wellisch

"Words can have no single fixed meaning. Like wayward electrons, they can spin away from their initial orbit and enter a wider magnetic field. No one owns them or has a proprietary right to dictate how they will be used."
~ David Lehman

"A wise man hears one word and understands two."
~ Yiddish Proverb

"Every word was once a poem. Every new relation is a new word."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious."
~ Alfred North Whitehead

"Half of analysis is anal."
~ Marty Indik

"Analysis and synthesis ordinarily clarify matters for us about as much as taking a Swiss watch apart and dumping its wheels, springs, hands, threads, pivots, screws and gears into a layman's hands for reassembling, clarifies a watch to a layman."
~ Unknown

"A good catchword can obscure analysis for fifty years."
~ Wendell L. Willkie

"Detailed analytical indexing is generally the hallmark of good back-of-the-book indexes."
~ Hans Wellisch

"There are one-story intellects, two-story intellects, and three-story intellects with skylights. All fact collectors with no aim beyond their facts are one-story men. Two-story men compare reason and generalize, using labors of the fact collectors as well as their own. Three-story men idealize, imagine, and predict. Their best illuminations come from above through the skylight."
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

"One must spend time in gathering knowledge to give it out richly."
~ Edward C. Steadman

"He is happiest who hath power to gather wisdom from a flower."
~ Mary Howitt

"The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes the middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own."
~ Francis Bacon

"The larger the mass of collected things, the less will be their usefulness. Therefore, one should not only strive to assemble new goods from everywhere, but one must endeavor to put in the right order those that one already possesses."
~ Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

"Identifying related information and gathering it together in an appropriate place is one of the more difficult aspects of indexing."

"Indexers should refrain from creating inappropriate relationships between terms... It is not the indexer's job to create artificial relationships that do not exist in the text. Artificial relationships are misleading to readers and unfair to the text."
~ Nancy Mulvany

"Gathering together related information will sometimes result in the development of headings that appear to be classified."
~ F. W. Lancaster

"Classification "ought not be employed in the arrangement of topical index headings. The main reason for this is that, however "logical" or "natural" a classified arrangement in hierarchical form may seem to be to the classifier, it may not be so to other people..."
~ Hans Wellisch

"One of the pleasures of reading indexes is "the exoticism of juxtaposition ... The delightfully mad quality of heterogeneous things linked violently together by the arbitrary order of the alphabet."
~ A.S. Byatt

"What is malleable is always superior to that which is immovable. This is the principle of controlling things by going along with them, of mastery through adaptation."
~ Lao-Tzu

"There are many, many ways to tell the same story."

"In an extensive investigation of the way people name things, it was found that two persons agreed on the same term for an object less than 20% of the time, and that an average of 15 terms was needed to achieve an average of 80% agreement. The researchers found that "there was no one good access term for most objects. The idea of an 'obvious,' 'self-evident,' or 'natural' term is a myth!... there can exist no rules, guidelines or procedures for choosing a good name, in the sense of 'accessible to the unfamiliar user."
~ Furnas et al

"Exercise your words. Try them out in new relationships."
~ William Sloane

"You never know till you try to reach them how accessible men are; but you must approach each man by the right door."
~ Henry Ward Beecher

"I believe that every man must make his own path."
~ Black Hawk

"Don't think you're on the right road just because it's a well-beaten path."
~ Unknown

"Every path has its puddle."
~ English Proverb

"We all have our own individual paths to follow, our own landscapes, our own guides, and our own destinations. It is unrealistic and overly idealistic to believe that ours is the only path. We may not see the others, but they are there, hidden behind our landscape, behind the props that we ourselves have set up and that only we ourselves can take down."
~ Todd Ellis Van Hoosear

"It's better to look for nothing and find something than to look for something and find nothing."

"If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere."
~ Frank A. Clark

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"People may be made to follow a path of action, but they may not be made to understand it."
~ Confucius

"Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking."
~ Antonio Machado

"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
~ Aldous Huxley

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Indexing consistency, like consistency of many other human intellectual tasks, is affected by a number of factors, and no matter what, it is not very high"
~ Saracevic

"In 1969 William Cooper "examined the validity of the widely held assertion that consistency among indexers is indicative of the quality of index, and that an increase in the level of consistency improves retrieval effectiveness. Through a mathematical analysis of a counterexample he concludes that indexer consistency cannot be used as a measure of indexing quality... He introduces, therefore, a new concept: 'Evidently there is another kind of consistency beside interindexer consistency which is important - namely, indexer-requestor consistency. If indexers tend to assign a given index term to a document to the same extent to which there is a tendency for the term to appear in requests to which the document is relevant, we say the indexer-requestor consistency is high; otherwise, it is low'."
~ Raya Fidel