The Indexer: The International Journal of Indexing

Book reviews

The Indexer: The International Journal of Indexing (2010), 28, (3), 139–144.


Book reviews Edited by Christopher Phipps and Michael E. Jackson Concevoir l’index d’un livre: histoire, actualités, perspectives. Jacques Maniez and Dominique Maniez. Paris: ADBS, 2009. 341 pp. ISBN 978-2-84365-099-4 (pbk) €28.00. Part One of father and son Jacques and Dominique Maniez’s Concevoir l’index d’un livre is about the making of an index and starts with ‘what is an index?’; it then takes the reader through the planning, methods, structure, rules and standards, wording and arrangement of entries, and the quality control stages of creating an index. All this is clearly explained, generally backed up with examples and set against accepted criteria for good indexes. Part One also includes an overview of indexing software available, plus a detailed chapter about embedded indexing. The overall aim of the authors is to offer an introduction to indexing, not a technical manual, and in this they are largely successful, as the book covers the essential concepts and most step-by-step tasks of creating an index using Microsoft Word. This first part explains indexing procedures in detail as well as many rules and standards. There are numerous examples throughout, both of good practice and of things to be avoided, and the authors offer judicious reasons for their recommendations. They have clearly done a lot of research and analysis for both the practical and theoretical parts, and their recommendations, rules and criteria that differ from those commonly used in English language indexing are usually sound and based on their goal of helping people create quality indexes. This is a concern stated regularly (going as far as saying ‘better no index than one of bad quality’ (p. 35), a surprising statement since their biographies do not mention that they are indexers. The authors have also provided exercises, additional examples and two companion websites ( and French speakers with an interest in indexing should be thankful for such dedication to quality and thoroughness. Part Two surveys indexes past, present, and glimpses into their future. It consists of two chapters on the history of indexes and indexing, leading to an overview of the current situation, followed by a chapter on the limits of fully automated indexing, and then an unusual chapter on two potential uses for indexes, one for fiction books, the other as a means of learning at school. The book ends with a French glossary and English equivalents, the index, and a detailed table of contents (TOC). The authors readily admit that indexes are not very popular in France, but early on compare a detailed TOC with the index for the same pages to prove that the index is a superior tool for readers. Unfortunately, in many French books the TOC comes at the end of the book – and for this specific title the 11-page index is immediately followed by a 9-page TOC – perhaps further reflecting indexes’ unpopularity with publishers. The history section is compiled from a variety of sources and reaches the conclusion that the ‘culture of indexing’ found in English-speaking countries is evidently lacking in France. The authors hope to remedy this by offering novice and occasional indexers the tools to make useful, quality indexes. As this book is an introduction to indexing, few indexers with access to English manuals and using dedicated software will find much to add to their knowledge. The rules, standards and recommended approaches are gathered from ISO 999 (in the majority of cases), the Chicago manual of style, Nancy Mulvany’s Indexing books, Do Mi Stauber’s Facing the text, and the writings of a few others. Occa- The Indexer Vol. 28 No. 3 September 2010 sionally the authors add other criteria, which I take to be their own rather than accepted French standards. They also offer judgments on some rules and standards, but these are generally to give more theoretical background. Overall the book is a treasure for any French speaker needing a clear and simple guide to making an index. The appeal for established indexers working in French comes mostly from the second part, although there are elements of interest in the first part too, since this manual is currently the sole resource on indexing in French – bar ISO 999 (which appears to be only a copy of the English, with a few minor variations for French and other languages), and Bella Weinberg’s research with French publishers in 1999. But while most of the rules come from English manuals and standards, this book is limited to using software available in French. In short that’s only Word and Writer, with the result that dedicated indexing software gets a meager total of three pages’ coverage. This exclusion is also due to the comparative high cost of specialist software for the occasional indexer, despite dedicated indexing programs working equally well in French (as they probably do in other languages), as evidenced by all the French-speaking indexers of ISC/SCI using one of the main three programs. Having eschewed detailed coverage of dedicated software, the authors propose only two methods for the use of computers in indexing: the word processor and embedded indexing. The word processor option is rudimentary, since it simply uses the Sort function to order the entries, but there is at least a full explanation of how to proceed step by step, with some ‘before and after’ examples as well as tips for things such as indents. Embedded indexing is the longest chapter of Part One, and the authors claim that this is ‘the best solution in the French context’. Their coverage of embedded indexing is divided into manual and semi-automatic methods. Their first statement about manual indexing is that it produces much better results, although it is more time-consuming. The entire process of entering entries one by one is explained with the aid of screen shots. Semi-automatic indexing has two variants, using either the Mark All (where an entry is typed in and Word finds all the occurrences of that word or string) or AutoMark (a sort of concordance) functions. Before explaining how these work, the authors compare the letter ‘A’ entries from an index of a book on indexing with the same ‘A’ entries done by semi-automatic indexing. They conclude that the low level of correspondence between them clearly proves that semi-automatic indexing cannot match the quality of manual indexing. Further, they add to the shortcomings of semi-automatic indexing by comparing these results with their original criteria for good indexes. Their advice is to use semi-automatic indexing for simple indexes (e.g. names) and manual indexing for subject indexes. But rather than restrict semi-automatic indexing to simple indexes, they suggest a compromise, allowing the use of this timesaving method while minimizing its inadequacies. This compromise can be summed up as using AutoMark for the terms of higher ‘value’ for a text (e.g. the term ‘ISO 999’ in this book) by selecting them during the manual indexing process since, as a ‘high-value’ term, all occurrences should be of use to readers. Here they fail to reiterate that the likely long strings of locators resulting from this should be avoided, and also omit to state that this would not pick up unnamed mentions (and so in this book instances of ‘. . . 139

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Author details

Phipps, Christopher

Jackson, Michael E.

Trahan, François

Jackson, Michael E.

Sutherland, Linda

Maislin, Seth

Ehrensperger, Florian

Weir, Sal