Monthly Archives: September 2015

Chicken tonight?

Many people lead busy lives and we’re all being encouraged to cook from scratch at home these days for health and financial reasons. So cookery books can be a good resource for inspiration and instructions. However, as the author of the tweet above pointed out, finding recipes can be difficult if the book has a poor index. The book in question has a very skimpy index, pretty much just a list of the recipe names. Lookinside shows what I mean

A typical recipe might generate between 2 and 6 entries for the index, so what else could a good index include apart from the recipe name? The first recipe listed in the index is ‘baked chicken with tarragon and mustard’, so entries could be made for both tarragon and mustard because other recipes might include them. The type of chicken used is ‘joints’, so there’s another to distinguish from the recipes that use a whole chicken, drumsticks, breasts or thighs. It might be relevant to index the ‘baked’ dishes, as others might be ‘stove-top’ or ‘grilled’.

After a bit of work on the other recipes other links might become apparent, perhaps including ethnic origins, so ‘Spanish’ might list ‘Casa Lucio’s chicken with garlic’, and ‘Mar i Muntanya’, as only a human indexer will associate the Madrid restaurant with Spain and spot that a Catalan dish comes from Spain.

There are many other links a good index can make that will help users make the best of a cookery book. A good index makes all the difference in a cookery book and a poor one can be criticised and loose sales. Sometimes too much time is spent on the design and layout and not enough on the human users of the book. Don’t let that happen to your cookery book.

#sisfep15 copy-editing, proofreading and indexing

The later stages of book production can involve three stages: copy-editing, proofreading and indexing. Each requires separate training and expertise. While some people offer all three, it’s not a great idea to have the same person providing all three for the same publication. A few words about each can clarify the roles.

To quote from the SfEP website:

Copy-editing takes the raw material (the ‘copy’: anything from a novel to a web page) and makes it ready for publication as a book, article, website, broadcast, menu, flyer, game or even a tee-shirt. The aim of copy-editing is to ensure that whatever appears in public is accurate, easy to follow, fit for purpose and free of error, omission, inconsistency and repetition. This process picks up embarrassing mistakes, ambiguities and anomalies, alerts the client to possible legal problems and analyses the document structure for the typesetter/designer.

After material has been copy-edited, the publisher sends it to a designer or typesetter. Their work is then displayed or printed, and that is the proof – proof that it is ready for publication. Proofreading is the quality check and tidy up. Proofreading is now often ‘blind’ – the proof is read on its own merits, without seeing the edited version.A proofreader looks for consistency in usage and presentation, and accuracy in text, images and layout, but cannot be responsible for the author’s or copy-editor’s work.

And on indexers:

A professional indexer compiles an ‘analytical’ index – not just a list of keywords. There are no quick fixes for the kind of intellectual analysis required in order to produce the most efficient ‘finding’ and ‘navigation’ tool for a printed or electronic publication. An indexer considers the terms the readers are likely to use and relates them to the language chosen by the author. An indexer analyses the meaning and significance of the entire content in detail, and identifies tangible concepts from the woolliest of descriptions.

So three stages, each doing different things with the text to make it as good as it can be, given the commercial and other constraints.

The first SfEP/SI joint conference was an excellent opportunity for our large community of copy-editors, indexers and proofreaders to develop their professional knowledge, network and socialise, alongside international delegates from both societies. The Storify gives a glimpse here #sisfep15.