by contributing PI indexer associate, Pat Rimmer
Working with the Best Practices Committee was a joy. The group, made of five experienced and new indexers of various backgrounds and disciplines, worked very well together. Donna Shear and I were co-chairpersons. Linnea Dwyer, Anne Fifer, and Margie Towery were also valuable members. We asked several other ASI (American Society for Indexing) members to join us but did not find others able to contribute the time at that time. The five that worked on the committee functioned as a unit with hours of discussion and follow-up work. When one member was busy or ill, another took up the slack.
The focus and purpose of the committee was to further the practice of indexing by creating a document that could be used by experienced and new indexers as well as editors and authors. With this in mind, we wanted to use natural language that the newest indexer or a non-indexer could understand, and define related terminology that may not be as readily understood. Thus the revised document discusses the structure of an index beginning with the metatopic and main headings and ending with cross-references and locators. We also wanted to enumerate qualities of an excellent index that did not fit into the structural elements so a section for qualities was added. Many publications and other documents were consulted to include the ASI criteria for the ASI/EIS Publishing Award, Hans Wellisch’s Indexing A to Z, and ISO 999 among others. The references will be listed in the document.
We used both Skype and Yahoogroups for discussions until the rough product was generated. Donna Shear shared our progress at a chapter meeting in early 2013 and received feedback which was incorporated into the document. This document was submitted to the ASI board for review in March of 2013. Comments and suggestions from the board required additions and restructuring.
In July of 2013, the committee met for three days at my house outside of Atlanta, Georgia, to revise the Best Practices document. We literally cut and pasted parts of the document to restructure and revise it. We added the qualities section and planned to add examples later. The committee realized that various sub-disciplines had their own best practices and wanted to address those issues as well. To that end, at least one expert in each field was contacted and asked to prepare a short appendix keyed to the main document that would delineate the variations for that discipline. We were unable to produce an appendix for every discipline but many disciplines are represented.
Our new version of the document was once again submitted to the board for review and approval. The board accepted it for review by the membership. The committee presented the Best Practices and appendices at the 2014 National Conference in Charleston for discussion and suggestions. It was well received at the conference and was subsequently revised and uploaded to the website for membership review and comments. We received a few comments but very few changes were necessary at this point. Copyediting and further tweaking was done and the final document was submitted for approval and accepted by the board. It will soon be available to all who desire to use it for education or justification.
Truly, work on the Best Practices Committee was enlightening and pleasurable. It was work but not burdensome. Good friendships and business relationships were forged and a workable document was produced to benefit the indexing profession.
Note: the ASI Best Practices for Indexing is planned for publication in the fall of 2015. Please go to the ASI website for more information.