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Index versus search function Editor's Notes #383
January 25, 2023

Indexes increase the marketability and sales of a book by allowing bookstores, libraries, and readers to understand the material included in the book in a concise and accurate manner.
—Christine Hoskin

In this issue:

1. Index versus search function
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1.Index versus search function
by Christine Hoskin, Schoolhouse Indexing (See Interesting Web site below)

Does my book need an index? That is a question writers should always ask. Will a search function do the job instead? The short answer – no.

Indexes create a map to the information in a book. The index will inform the reader where to find a given topic. The index will inform a possible buyer – be it a bookstore, library, or retail customer – whether this book contains the information desired. An index needs to be well-crafted, detailed, and accurate to provide those benefits. A human brain, not a computer search, is the tool for creating an index.

Some examples:
  • If the topic is dogs, a professional indexer will include references to pages where Labrador Retrievers or Poodles are mentioned. A search for the word “dog” may never find those pages.
  • If the topic is gender disparity, a professional indexer will include references to pages where wage gaps, male vs. female collegiate admission rates, or boy and girl toys are discussed. Nowhere on those pages are the words “gender disparity” found, however, that is the overarching topic discussed.
  • If the topic is humor, words like laugh, sarcasm, or comedy may be used in the text. An indexer would know to include those under humor, but a search for “humor” will not find those mentions.

Your book deserves a top-notch index. Your human brain did the research and wrote the words for your readers. Let an indexer’s human brain create a map to that information with a quality index.

2.Tickled my funny bone
A book fell on my head; I can only blame my shelf. 

3. Interesting Web site
Christine Hoskin’s credentials are impressive. I invite you to check them out. For that and more, visit her Web site. And you fiction writers, be sure to check out her post about indexing fiction. It’s on the right side of the home page.

4. Writing prompt
Strikes me that indexing is a type of sorting. Write about sorting, done or not done, and the consequences. I’d love to hear what you come up with.

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