by Paul Jackson
by Alan G. Gross and Joseph E. Harmon
by Ross F. Collins, Ed.
by Stephanie Craft and Charles N. Davis
by eLearning Industry
Successful Proposal Strategies for Small Businesses: Using Knowledge Management to Win Government, Private-Sector, and International Contracts
by Robert S. Frey
by Steve Portigal
by Dan Saffer
by Matthew A. Russell
by Jane K. Seale
by Enid L. Zafran, Ed.
Cut and Fold Techniques for Promotional Materials
Paul Jackson. 2013. London, UK: Laurence King Publishing Ltd. [ISBN 978-1-78067-094-2. 120 pages. US$24.95 (softcover).]
Looking for a book of theory with discussion on the subject of promotional materials? Paul Jackson’s book is not it. Buy a copy only if you want a hands-on book with creative projects to engage your customers, staff, and maybe family members. Then pull out your mechanical pencil, ruler, scissors, and glue. Beside them, place a craft knife, drafting compass, triangle, and protractor. A paper cutter is useful, too.
Ah, you can see that Jackson really meant it when he titled the book, Cut and Fold Techniques for Promotional Materials. Each chapter contains six projects suitable to be printed with your company’s promotional content. The projects are grouped in chapters titled “Flexagons,” “Modular Solids,” “Envelopes,” “Puzzles and Illusions,” “Folded Booklets,” and “Novelties.” Jackson has a number of engaging projects that your customer will assemble and keep on his/her desk with your logo visible. You likely remember some projects from school days.
Hand-eye challenged, I enlisted help from my spouse (a mechanical engineer). We made three projects for this review: two flexagons and one envelope. With the help of my sister-in-law (an artist), I then used the envelope instructions to produce twenty elegant party favors for a celebration. Other projects that still inspire me to make them are a folded booklet and hanging letters.
Jackson expects your professional printer will supply the A4 paper required for most of the projects. For test purposes, you need to know that the A4 aspect ratio is 1.4142. If using letter-size paper instead of A4, you must do some math and cutting. (Hint: Remove 0.72 inches off the 8.5 width.)
Two folding techniques are important to learn: valley folds and mountain folds. One fold is toward you; the other toward the back of the paper. The “Before You Start” chapter provides a list of symbols for the needed folds and cuts. Each project’s instructions call out these symbols.
You may need a magnifying glass to read the instructions. Cut and Fold Techniques for Promotional Materials uses a thin, san-serif font in six points throughout, right beside the excellent step-by-step drawings. A hands-on person may just refer to the drawings. I read the instructions carefully. They were accurate, although the drawing was always the final reference.
History buffs will appreciate the book’s “Provenance” section. Jackson provides a source of references that he was able to track down, some dating back to 1939. Your Marketing department will want to borrow the book. Don’t expect them to return it
Donna Ford has been a member of STC, joining in 1990 and serving on her local chapter’s board for many years. She has been a technical writer since 1987 in the hardware, software and government health care industries. She holds a certificate in Information Design from Bentley College.
Science from Sight to Insight: How Scientists Illustrate Meaning
Alan G. Gross and Joseph E. Harmon. 2014. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. [ISBN: 978-0-226-06848-0. 332 pages, including index. US$30.00 (softcover).]
Although I knew that Science from Sight to Insight: How Scientists Illustrate Meaning would be about visuals in scientific communication, I was surprised at the depth of the research and philosophy behind the complex foundation of this book, which is an attempt to develop “a general theory of verbal-visual interaction in the communication of science” (p. 2).
Today, science is a public interest with a solid place in popular media. We use scientific illustrations, graphics, or information graphics to communicate meaning to a population that often has limited knowledge or understanding of highly complex scientific notions. The heart of the book is taking readers through a scientific and “synthetic” process to understand how visualization practices work regarding communicating scientific meaning. Readers need to understand the changes in scientific visualization over time, and not just that “scientific visuals evolved, but that they evolved in a certain direction” (p. 79). Gross and Harmon begin discussing Heidegger’s philosophy of science, then include how scientific visualization is influenced by Gestalt theory, cognitive psychology, dual coding theory, semiotics, history, sociology, and other exigencies. The authors discuss scientific visualization evolution from a historical and technological perspective, such as how PowerPoint and the Internet change the way we conduct, share, and even understand science.
Gross and Harmon’s extensive research and sophisticated discussions in Science from Sight to Insight are a strength and a drawback. Each chapter is a progression toward the comprehensive theory of scientific visualization, a progression that is well-supported with abundant and relevant research. Yet, the discussion’s denseness and even the assumptions of readers’ familiarity with the background material drastically narrow the book’s audience. I looked at using this book in a graduate class on scientific communication because I thought it might lead to philosophical discussions about scientific truth, knowledge and knowledge creation, thought processes assigned to “scientists,” Darwin’s illustrations, and other debatable issues regarding science, truth, and communication. That idea faded as I saw the understanding needed to get through each chapter’s literature review. My assumption is that only those professionals who are actively involved in scientific visualization studies will appreciate the vast and deep examination of applicable literature that gives Gross and Harmon the basis for their own argument. Since the authors did a good job of making their case regarding the importance of developing this visualization theory and knowing how prominent science has become in the media, the information in Science from Sight to Insight seems highly relevant to graduate students studying scientific and technical communication. However, the book’s specialized audience may severely limit the understanding and use of Gross and Harmon’s meticulously researched and explained discoveries.
Diane Martinez is an assistant professor of professional and technical communication at Western Carolina University. She previously worked as a technical writer in engineering, an online writing instructor, and an online writing center specialist. She has been with STC since 2005.
Editing Across Media: Content and Process for Print and Online Publication
Ross F. Collins, Ed. 2013. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company. [ISBN: 978-0-7864-7342-7. 232 pages, including index. US$39.95 (softcover).]
Copy editors today take on many responsibilities not included in their job descriptions only a decade or two ago. In Ross F. Collins’ words, “Today many editors have to do more, know more, be more” (p. 1). This book of 11 essays is intended to serve as a journalism textbook to familiarize students with “all jobs listed under the title ‘editor’ in the twenty-first century.” The authors provide the “minimum competence” (p. 2) Collins believes a prospective editor needs today in mass media.
Editing Across Media: Content and Process for Print and Online Publication focuses mainly on copy editing newspapers, with many of the essays delving into the job’s nitty gritty. A chapter on the editor as writer singles out the most frequent grammar errors along with common Associated Press style mistakes. Several essays cover designing print and online newspapers, now often included among editorial responsibilities. The text provides students with historical background on the development of type as well as details of type styles and fonts, and advice on choosing typefaces. Guidelines on sketching dummy sheets, choosing photos, and laying out pages continue the design lessons. One essay is dedicated to headline writing.
Besides the details of newspaper production, journalism students will find other important topics, including ethical and legal issues involved in publishing, and advice on developing the judgment skills needed for the editing process. The authors touch briefly on Internet issues, such as paywalls and citizen reporters. The final chapter presents a project example where a class produced a print magazine.
Editing Across Media: Content and Process for Print and Online Publication presents the basic concepts of newspaper production that today’s copy editor needs on the job. The essays are well written, and each includes a bibliography and student exercises. My main criticism of the book lies with the title, which suggests a much broader scope than the book actually covers. I expected to learn something new about editing new media. I was disappointed by the book’s old school approach. However, for someone who is new to editing and page layout, this book could be a useful resource.
Linda M. Davis is an active STC member in the STC Los Angeles chapter and an independent communications practitioner in the Los Angeles area. She holds an MA in communication management and has specialized in strategic communication planning, publication management, writing, and editing for more than 25 years.
Principles of American Journalism: An Introduction
Stephanie Craft and Charles N. Davis. 2013. New York, NY: Routledge. [ISBN: 978-0-415-89017-5. 234 pages, including index. US$49.95 (softcover).]
Journalism as a profession is challenging to define as well as to practice, according to Craft and Davis. Yet, it is essential to America’s democracy.
Principles of American Journalism: An Introduction introduces its readers to the field, including journalism’s birth in the Enlightenment, its economic and technological evolutions, and its ethical responsibilities in society. It has no instructions or examples on how to write a news story, rather its purpose is to explore the beliefs and behaviors of what is accepted and expected of journalists.
This book uses several textbook conventions. For example, each chapter has a bullet list of learning objectives and callouts for important definitions and discussion questions. Every chapter ends with a summary, suggested class activities, and a bibliography. The most interesting of these conventions are the sections called “The View from the Pros,” in which practicing journalists write about real case studies.
Textbooks can be dry even with enthusiastic writers. The authors being mindful that they are writing to undergraduate students use a conversational, humorous tone to help keep their readers’ interest. For example, they write, “But of course you know that already from Chapter 2” about a point they make in chapter six (p. 135). In addition, they are being both sly and earnest when they say on page 3, “We are skipping a ton of really interesting history here in the name of brevity.”
Being brief is the nature of an introductory work. However, Craft and Davis delve into weighty discussions, such as modern journalism’s ethical codes. Furthermore, they write with conviction about the freedom of the press granted by the First Amendment. Indeed, Principles of American Journalism discusses a variety of topics, but much of the writing is dedicated to American journalism, namely its roots, its particular news topics, and also its commercial business model.
Craft and Davis remain balanced in their discussions of journalism’s tenets, except perhaps when they contrast the American business model with the government-sponsored British system, which they admire. Ironically, it was the British repression of the press in the 18th century, the authors point out, that lead to America’s freedom of the press.
Yet, this is not a contradiction in their thinking but an example of the competing ideals within journalism. Journalists often make difficult ethical decisions, such as balancing the privacy of citizens with the public’s right-to-know, competing to “get the scoop” while being responsible for getting the story correct, and deciding to remain dispassionate observers or to become voices of those in trouble.
This tension between contrasting principles is the heartbeat of Principles of American Journalism. The authors argue that there are few easy answers in a democracy and in journalism. With this strong pulse beating within a thoughtful structure, this textbook makes a good introduction to modern American journalism.
James Morgan has been in nonprofit communications for sixteen years.
The Free eBook: How Gamification Reshapes Learning
eLearning Industry. 25 pages. http://elearningindustry.com/how-gamification-reshapes-learning
Gamification has become a hot topic in instructional design. Christopher Pappas says that gamification is “the use of game thinking and mechanics in a non-game context to inspire employees and students to get engaged in the learning process” (p. 2). Game mechanics can be as simple as integrating quiz questions in a training seminar or as sophisticated as constructing a reward system in which learners earn badges and unlock further content. In this free eBook produced by the eLearning Industry (www.elearningindustry.com), 23 top gamification professionals address the question: “What are the most effective uses of gamification in learning?”
Overall, the authors address this question thoroughly in their articles. They explain how and why gamification is an effective practice, and most provide examples of how they have implemented gamification techniques in their training design. From Karl Kapp’s use of competitive games to engage his audiences during presentations (p. 10) and Kirsty Chadwick’s integration of gaming elements in a legal training course (p. 11), to Marina Arshavskiy’s gaming app to help recruit hotel employees (p. 13) and Michael Hugos’ interactive simulator for supply chain operations, and several other examples not mentioned here, this eBook presents several concrete examples of implementing gamification in various learning environments.
This eBook also addresses tips on how to deal with negative perceptions of gamification. For example, T. Raven Meyers discusses how her company handled concerns from parties who viewed a medical gaming app as a mere toy, and not as a tool to help students learn and retain information for their board exams (p. 24).
Despite its short length, this eBook connects the reader to much more content through its handy contact links for each of the 23 authors—from email and social media addresses, to links to demo tools.
The only drawback of this eBook is that the table of contents is organized solely by author and not by topic. This is good if you are already familiar with the author, but not as ideal if you want to research specific topics within gamification. Basically, this is not a book where you simply look up a specific topic and find what you need on page X. Rather, you flip to page X and discover nuggets of wisdom. The essays may answer the same question, but they are independent of each other.
Despite the lack of indexed topics, this eBook is still a valuable resource to learn more about what gamification is, and how to apply it in various settings.
Jamye Sagan has over 10 years of technical communication experience. She is the pharmacy communications advisor for H-E-B Grocery Company in San Antonio, TX. A senior member, Jamye is active with the Instructional Design & Learning SIG, where she has contributed several Summit session reviews for the SIG’s newsletter.
Successful Proposal Strategies for Small Businesses: Using Knowledge Management to Win Government, Private-Sector, and International Contracts
Robert S. Frey. 2013. 6th ed. Boston, MA: Artech House. [ISBN 978-1-60807-474-7. 676 pages, including index. US$139.00 (hardcover).]
Robert S. Frey knows proposals and knows the current fiscal climate in which businesses, particularly small businesses, are trying to win work. This sixth edition of Successful Proposal Strategies for Small Businesses is updated to address the decline in federal government spending. It is also updated to more fully address the “important human and organizational dynamics related to the proposal life cycle that contribute directly to winning new contracts” (p. xxi). That is, Frey addresses the all-important people aspect of proposal work and the all-important cultural aspect of small organizations trying to strategically align themselves to win big work.
This book is a must-read for anyone who is new to federal government contracting and federal government proposal work. The extensive glossary and list of acronyms and abbreviations will be an invaluable resource as well as the book’s touching on all aspects of proposal development—from pre-solicitation marketing to post-award business complexities. In addition, the templates in the book are provided on the accompanying DVD in Adobe PDF. While the templates are useful, the interviewing templates (Chapter 3) are superior and should be used by business development and project management professionals to cultivate relationships with their clients.
Even seasoned proposal veterans will find something of interest and may even smile at Frey’s inclusion of one small, two-paragraph sub-section about proposal work being fun. It is fun and rewarding, but also demanding and Frey does an excellent job of articulating those demands. He also does an excellent job detailing the legislative, regulatory, and policy changes over the last 20 years that have reshaped the federal acquisition process, which Frey articulates, as one example, in a flow chart in Chapter 6.
Similar to the flow chart in Chapter 6, supporting graphics, tables, and charts in the book complement Frey’s text. Some graphics, however, feature clip art images and text that are simplistic and do not add value to the discussion. While Frey’s discussion on using graphics in proposals is thorough, readers should be cautious of using the graphics shown as good examples. Technical communicators and instructional designers will quickly see the limitations of the graphics that are used within the book. Instead, use the resources Frey references, or hire a graphic designer if graphics are not your, or your organization’s, strength.
Successful Proposal Strategies for Small Businesses is a resource that proposal managers and business developers should have on their bookshelves. It is also a resource for Project Management Offices (PMOs), which Frey includes in his discussion and proposal shops. Although this looks more like a textbook than a business book, it is applicable to both students wanting to learn about proposal management and business people wanting to make sure that they are submitting strategic, client-focused proposals.
Liz Herman, PhD, PMP, CPTC is a communications leader with 20 years of demonstrated achievements in delivering superior knowledge management solutions. She is a senior member of STC and is active in STC’s Washington Baltimore Chapter. She currently works for Battelle managing clients within its health and analytics business.
Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights
Steve Portigal. 2013. Brooklyn, NY: Rosenfeld Media. [ISBN 978-1-933820-118. 160 pages, including index. US$39.00 (softcover).]
You might think that asking users questions during an interview is an easy task. However, to get the information you are seeking during your interview, you want to invest the time up front in the planning stages to develop the best questions and approach you want to take when interviewing customers about their procedures and how they use your software.
In his book, Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights, Steve Portigal takes you through the entire interview process and even includes a chapter that instructs you how to analyze and synthesize your interview data. He includes in this chapter a timeframe for interviewing users.
Portigal’s book arrived in good timing for me, as my documentation team is planning a set of interview questions for our internal subject matter experts. I am now making a list of suggestions for my documentation team. We are also using the guide to participate in fieldwork (page 70), which is also accessible in PDF format at http://rfld.me./PFG8dP.
Portigal addresses areas that one might not consider. For example, consider the number of participants in your team. The ideal team size is two people: one to lead the interview and another person to take notes. Once the team gets to three, Portigal points out that the dynamics change. The interview might not be as productive. Next, the seating in the room during the interview is important. Make certain the participant can see the interview team members without having to turn to make eye contact.
Chapter 5, “Key Stages of the Interview,” is the richest part of the book. Portigal breaks down the interview into seven stages and then walks you through each stage. He even includes a piece from Ted Frank on how to get video as good as your insights. Frank provides valuable information and an illustration on how to prepare the interview environment to achieve a high-quality interview video.
When you begin the interview, always introduce your team to your participant and explain what is expected. Give the participant a thumbnail outline of the process, along with a time estimate.
Once the interview gets underway, Portigal suggests you remain silent after you ask a question and don’t suggest possible responses. He explains that people speak in paragraphs. If you remain silent, participants are likely to continue with their responses.
During the interview, remember to signal your lane changes. As the interviewer, you know the destination, but the participant may not now where you are going with your questions.
Following the interview, it is important for the field team to write their observations as soon as possible and then come together as a group to summarize the findings. This way, you note the important observations during the interview.
You will find Portigal’s book a valuable resource as you plan upcoming interviews with your users.
Rhonda Lunemann is a technical writer with Siemens PLM Software, a senior member of STC’s Twin Cities Chapter, and a member and officer of the Hill Speakers Toastmasters Club (Club 4415).
Microinteractions: Designing with Details
Dan Saffer. 2013. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly. [ISBN 978-1-4493-4268-5. 152 pages, including index. US$24.99 (softcover).]
Microinteractions: Designing with Details is a great book for thinking about design elements that are, as Dan Saffer puts it, the “difference between a product we love and a product we just tolerate” (p. ix). The book uses a simple, usable layout and defines central concepts in laymen’s terms. The central term is thus defined as “a contained product moment that revolves around a single use case—a tiny piece of functionality that only does one thing” (p. 2). Throughout the book, Saffer details specific microinteractions through screenshots ranging from signups on social media sites to swiping motions on mobile applications. Reading this book not only gives you a working knowledge of the importance of these small-scale interactions, it teaches you how to design usable products and services in a variety of contexts.
As Saffer emphasizes, the main impetus for a book focusing on small-scale interactions is that they are often neglected in the rush to bring a product or service to market. Drawing on both personal and professional experiences that any technology user can relate to, Saffer illustrates with clarity and humor the frustrations of inadequate error messages, smartphone mute button glitches, and password forms that don’t clearly instruct users how to create a sound password. What is perhaps most valuable for readers interested in any form of design or product development, however, is that Saffer offers simple, intuitive solutions to every problem he raises.
The key to this approach is his division of microinteractions into triggers, rules, feedback, and loops and modes, categories that he breaks down further within chapters dedicated to each. His final chapter is a reflection on a complete workflow for developing microinteractions, from their initial conception to user testing. Even readers with little knowledge of areas Saffer draws on like interaction design, information architecture, or usability will find the book’s scope easily manageable. Readers can focus on a particular design element they may be struggling with, such as a trigger which indicates to a user that a particular interaction is available, or can use the overall framework presented by Saffer as a method for rethinking any form of digital communication and its usefulness to real people.
Overall, Saffer has broken the interactions users have with digital products and services into basic elements that apply to a broad array of contexts. Each element works as both a discrete aspect of microinteraction, as well as a case-in-point for thinking about design from the standpoint of its smallest working parts. At an even finer level, individual elements such as the trigger mentioned above are broken contextually into common conditions in which they are found, such as during errors, changes in user location, and new additions of data. This cogent balance between structure, context, and usability makes Microinteractions a recommended read for anyone interested in the finer details of design.
Guiseppe Getto is an assistant professor of technical and professional communication at East Carolina University, where he researches and teaches user experience (UX) design and the development of participatory cultures within communities and organizations as well as online.
Mining the Social Web: Data Mining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, GitHub, and More
Matthew A. Russell. 2014. 2nd ed. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media. [ISBN: 978-1-449-36761-9. 424 pages, including index. US$44.99 (softcover).]
In 2011, Russell published the first edition of Mining the Social Web. At the time, I gave the book a positive, but tepid, review. As I read and apply the lessons in the second edition, I am enthusiastic in my positive review. From the Preface to the Index, this edition is easier to understand and apply. Like the first edition, the book is organized in chapters that explain why and how to analyze data from various sources, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and GitHub. The book’s organization makes it easy to focus on the content that is applicable to your scenario and filter out the irrelevant content.
The examples provided assume knowledge of the Python programming language. Some might argue that it’s daunting for a technical communicator to know enough Python to use the examples, but, when motivated, anyone can learn. The IPython Notebook is provided as the interpreter so you can make the most of the sample code that is provided throughout the book.
On page 32, Russell has a wonderful paragraph that introduces how to calculate the lexical diversity of tweets. I love that people care enough about words to develop data analysis tools in an effort to find meaning. I want people to care about more than the money you can make from the data you can extract.
Russell discusses the topic of money later in the book when information retrieval is described as “a multibillion-dollar industry” (p. 179). While we can make financial gains from data analysis, I want anthropologists and other social scientists to have access to the data that can be calculated. It seems vital to understanding our culture and the implications of our actions.
Unlike the first edition, the second edition is divided into two parts: Part I. A Guided Tour of the Social Web, and Part II. Twitter Cookbook. Part one mirrors the first edition’s structure. Part two is new, and, from an editor’s perspective, it seems unbalanced. I see more companies are publishing cookbooks to make their content seem easier to digest, but the term seems to be more of a distraction. Nevertheless, part two extends the metaphor when promising “more than two dozen bite-sized recipes for mining Twitter data” (p. 349).
Russell presents the recipes consistently with a problem statement, followed by a solution statement, and discussion, as well as provides helpful examples. At the end of the cookbook, Russell suggests additional exercises and provides online resources.
Mining the Social Web: Data Mining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, GitHub, and More concludes with three appendices that should be required reading to a practitioner, and, at eight pages, does not require much time.
Angela Robertson is a content strategist at IBM in Research Triangle Park, NC. Angela has an MS degree in technical communication from North Carolina State University.
E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice
Jane K. Seale. 2014. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Routledge. [ISBN 978-0-415-62941-1. 268 pages, including index. US$44.95 (softcover).]
Jane K. Seale’s second edition of E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice is a well-structured and focused text that effectively moves accessibility beyond its traditional discourse drivers: increasing numbers of disabled students in higher education, legislation, guidelines for producing accessible learning (WCAG for example), and accessibility specifications and standards (Chapter 3). Seale’s most important achievements in this edition are to not only identify multiple gaps and silences surrounding accessibility—including those of disabled students, accessibility practitioners, and policies and practices—but to effectively argue for and propose new approaches to accessibility research and accessibility practice. Given her emphasis on users and participatory research methods, Seale’s suggestions will resonate with many technical communicators and usability researchers.
Researchers, technical communicators, and faculty who have little experience with accessibility—aside from the “follow these rules to avoid a lawsuit” institutional guidelines—will find a powerful text. In excellent rhetorical form, Seale sets the accessibility scene in the first section and identifies key drivers, stakeholders, and participants. The second section surveys the accessibility scene while the third section critiques it. Seale indicates in her Preface for this edition that the critiques are primarily about “voices and silences” (pp. xi-x). Throughout the first three sections, she cites research and findings from around the globe. This text presents an understanding that is nuanced, well-supported, and detailed for professionals who want to become familiar with accessibility and its complexity.
E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education offers much to accessibility practitioners and researchers. Besides Seale’s thorough discussions and documentation—both solid sources for content whether presenting to colleagues on accessibility or fleshing out a literature review—the text’s structure and organization is in itself a great model for persuading colleagues and administrators to see accessibility beyond the framing of traditional drivers. Additionally, the fourth section, “Reimagining the Scene: Voicing the Future for Accessibility Research and Practice,” is a great initiator for discussions on different ways the field can expand its own research and practices. Just as Blakeslee and Spilka’s 2004 “The State of Research in Technical Communication” asked a number of important questions that technical communication needed to consider, Seale’s final section raises questions and suggestions of similar importance and value.
Seale’s text offers additional value as a resource for faculty teaching in accessibility, usability, or disability studies, which complement a number of reading lists. For faculty teaching research to graduate students, E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education demonstrates breadth and depth of research, connecting multiple facets of a complex topic and environments, and builds an extended yet readable argument. For those working to support accessibility in research, classes, teaching, and texts, but feeling overwhelmed by the drivers, legalism, and rules, Seale offers a refreshing take that blends a global overview while being specific, focused, and concrete enough to inspire action.
Gregory Zobel is an assistant professor of educational technology at Western Oregon University. Trained in technical communication, usability, and rhetoric, he supports and trains educators employing technology to enhance and enrich learner engagement, accessibility, and content delivery in person and online.
Index It Right! Advice from the Experts
Enid L. Zafran, Ed. 2014. Volume 3. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc. [ISBN 978-1-57387-500-4. 210 pages, including index. US$40.00 (softcover).]
The Index It Right series provides practicing indexers with monographs on topics not usually covered in works designed to teach indexing basics. This third volume in the series, as the previous two, contains a dozen or so essays—in this case a baker’s dozen—by experienced indexers who regard the crafting of competent, even elegant, indexes a contribution to the publishing process that determines to a large degree whether a document, be it paper or electronic, is usable and can successfully fulfill its information-conveying responsibility. That this mission is so much more than collecting terms and alphabetizing them at the end of a book should be obvious, but often it is not.
Index It Right consists of an Introduction by the editor, thirteen chapters on a variety of topics, contributor biographies, and an index. Topics covered are “Indexing as Canvas, Musings On” by Frances Lennie; “Creating Real-World Ecommerce Taxonomies: Getting Customers to Products” by Fred Leise; “I Was a Teenage Taxonomist: The Light and Dark of Constructing Taxonomies at Bloomberg BNA” by Chuck Knapp; “Ebook Indexing” by Glenda Browne and Mary Coe; “Indexing Literary Criticism” by Martin White; “Let the Adventure Begin! Indexing Time-Spanning History Texts” by Connie Binder; “Indexing Scholarly Books Across Cultures” by Celeste Newbrough; “Medical and Science Indexing” by Anne-Marie Downey; “Indexing Math: Anyone Can Index Math, Right? After All, It’s Only Numbers” by Cynthia Landeen; “The Heart of the Matter: An Introduction to the Challenges of Periodical Indexing” by Linda S. Dunn; “Chinese Personal Names: How to Decode Them” by Lai Heung Lam; “The Logic and Language of Patterns” by Scott Smiley; and “Teaching Indexing” by Lucie Haskins.
It is unlikely that every topic will interest every reader, but Index It Right is not meant to be read from cover to cover, one chapter following another. Rather, it provides a variety of topics, and the reader is invited to skim within or read in depth. Scott Smiley’s chapter is for you if you have been perplexed by the “patterns” feature of your indexing software. Check out Lai Heung Lam’s clear and detailed advice if indexing Chinese names has you puzzled. Martin White tells us that literary criticism is alive and well, and he explains the ins and outs of indexing it. Linda S. Dunn takes on periodical indexing, an area with its own particular challenges. Each chapter contains some information you probably do not already know, and if you need it or just find it interesting, it is there for you.
If you want more information about a type of indexing you expect to perform, or one person’s experience teaching indexing to beginners, or how to obtain the most benefit from your indexing software by using patterns, or any of a number of other useful topics, you will find Index It Right a worthy addition to your library.
Karen Lane is a freelance technical editor, indexer, and coauthor of a technical communication textbook, Technical Communication: Strategies for College and the Workplace. She is an STC Fellow and has served on several Society-level committees, as well as serving as program manager for the 2008 STC Technical Communication Summit.