Real World InDesign Wins Best Index Award
You’ve likely heard me talk about how little I enjoy indexing. I did actually index my own books for a decade (first with highlighter and index cards, then later with PageMaker and QuarkXPress’s indexing features) and it was horrible. I was finally talked out of indexing by Ole Kvern, my co-author on Real World InDesign. He insisted that professional indexers are simply better than authors at indexing books. Authors are too close to the work to see the forest for all the trees, he said.
I finally grudgingly agreed after my wife reminded me that the weeks I’ve spent indexing were typically spent in a semi-comatose state of indigestion and stress. (Nevertheless, it pained me, as we, the authors, had to pay for some of the indexing costs from our own pockets.)
Jan Wright, a longtime friend, indexer, editor, and teacher agreed to index our book. It was good. Actually, it was great. Then she did the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th editions, too. (The 5th edition, for InDesign CS4, has recently been released, with the best index yet.) There’s no doubt in my mind that I could never accomplish that good of an index.
In fact, it’s so good that it* has been awarded this year’s recipient of the ASI/H.W. Wilson Award in Excellence in Indexing. What is particularly amazing about this is that this is the first time a technical manual has won the award!
Here’s a quick explanation from the award committee:
The Wilson Award Committee was impressed by the detailed level of granularity at which the index was written. Every conceivable utility, button, dialog box and menu item was covered in the index. In addition to the granularity, the coverage of the index was exhaustive. There did not appear to be a single concept in the text that was not appropriately covered in the index. Also, as is so important in a technical manual’s index, not only were software features indexed, but actions were as well. That allows users to find information on how to use features not just descriptions of them.
Index entries were appropriately double- or even triple-posted, ensuring multiple access points to information. The index was written in a concise, direct style, resulting in an index with a scientific elegance. Generally short lines, along with a layout that used lots of white space made for easy reading, even at the relatively small font size. Finally, the authors’ use of humor was consistently represented in the index, which is not always an easy thing to carry off.
To me, it’s the humor that really makes this index. Just peruse the index for a couple of minutes and you’ll find yourself chuckling, or even laughing out loud. At least I do. Maybe that just says something about me. Hm.
Anyway, I want to say congratulations to Jan. And admit Ole was right. And generally remind people that the CS4 version of the book is out now. ;)
[*ed note: Technically, its the index in the CS3 version that won.]