What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor and proofreader, and occasional indexer. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

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Saturday, December 8, 2007

APA-style author indexes: The forecast calls for pain

New task, bad move.

I’ve spent much of the last few days battling an APA-style author index. Allow me to explain.

I’ve referred elsewhere to the Chicago Manual of Style, one of the style books that guides what people like me do for a living. It’s designed generally for people working in the humanities. Other style manuals, all of which I’ve used, are from the Associated Press (the formerly called AP Style Book and Libel Manual [I love that title]), the Society of Biblical Literature (great for classical works, not just scripture), the MLA (mostly for literary criticism), and the American Psychological Association (mostly for social sciences). Individual publishers also have their own style manuals. I have one for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series which looks just like a Chicken Soup book. Shows what you can do when you have the printing press in your basement, as this particular publisher does.

This wonderful new client of mine, who essentially created the paradigm under which I now work (see earlier post), wants me to do an author index for a APA-styled book. OK, no biggie. I’ve done indexes for books that seemed to be in foreign languages (see earlier posts), I’ve done extensive scriptural and classical work indexes (pains in the butt on a major scale), I’ve done proper name indexes. What’s the problem?

The problems (note the plural) are that you’re not just identifying individual authors, but you also have to identify them by their initials. So, you might have 10 different Smiths. You might only have one McKinney, for example, but because of the individual chapter authors’ styles, he might be X. McKinney in one place and X. S. McKinney somewhere else, and those have to be kept different, because X. and X. S. might not actually be the same person (could be father and son, for example), so being precise is important.

Which brings up another problem. What if the only thing different is the authors’ styles from one chapter to the next in a multiauthor book? What if one only cited one initial, and the other cited two? Do you merge the listings? And if you do, at what point do you stop second-guessing the author and copyeditor? Best answer is, you don't second-guess them at all.

Problem 3: et freaking al. OK, so you have a listing of Smith et al. in the text. All the names aren’t listed, so you have to go to the list of references at end of chapter or book, which means twice the work. This book includes some listings in the references that read Smith, Jones, Brown, Black, Johnson, Grillo, McCarthy, Weinstein, Lee, Li, Garrity et al. That’s not an indexing problem, as much as a commonsense issue. If you’ve listed 11 names before the et al, you gotta wonder: how many people are needed to screw in a lightbulb?

The only other client that follows APA for whom I’ve done indexes had an interesting approach: only cite them in the index if their full name was mentioned in the chapter, which happens rarely in most APA books, because they use an author-date citation style (Land, 2007). So there are not many opportunities to use a full name, unless it’s, I guess, the author’s friend.

Already I’ve gone through three possibilities of how to build this author index, which have involved PDF searches building from the references list, keying in the names of the researchers as I’m going along, having my wife read the names to me . . . . 40-something hours later I am left with an 18-page, 10-point, two-column list that seemingly has more questions than answers, mostly revolving around initials. I’ve probably got about 6 hours of dicking around with that document until I get it right. Oh, and now I'm writing the subject index, too.

Then, at about 5 this morning, the solution hits me for the authors. Key in the references exactly as they appear in the chapters: name, year, everything. Alphabetize/sort at end of each chapter. Compare this list with the end-of-chapter references, adding initials and deleting years. Then also, the et als will be right where I need them. Then re-sort. I did this for about five pages of a chapter just as a test. Works beautifully. Looks wonderful. I am considering going back and scrapping the previous three days of work and rebuilding the index this way. I might not tell my wife, though, as I don’t want her thinking her efforts were wasted. But I guess in the long run they weren’t, as it took a bit of trial and error to get to the proper solution. And I need to remember that that’s the way it was when I started indexing about 10 years ago. I didn’t have all the tricks I do now, so there was a learning curve.

Irony: The book on which all this is happening deals with growth following trauma. Life imitates art.

Back to work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wandered across this blog while link-hopping (probably read your comment on Nathan Bransford's entry re: a book a year). I just wanted to thank you for writing an entry that made me laugh, because I've done the "re-invent the wheel" thing myself many times. Thanks for being dedicated, and have a nice day. ^_^