Archive for June, 2014

Conciseness in a Quality Scholarly Index

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

A quality scholarly index must be accurate, consistent, comprehensive, concise, readable, reflexive, audience-sensitive and elegant.  In the last few blog postings, I have discussed accuracy, consistency and comprehensiveness.  In this blog posting, I will focus on conciseness as a factor in a quality scholarly index.

Conciseness, defined

Webster’s defines “concise” as something “marked by brevity of expression or statement; free from all elaboration and superfluous detail.”  The National Information Standards Organization states in its Guidelines for Indexes and Related Information Retrieval Devices to “use terminology that is as specific as the [text] warrant[s] and the indexing language permits.”

Indexers must present an organized structure in an index in as concise a manner as possible while at the same time maintaining clarity and comprehensiveness.  Specificity may be sacrificed for conciseness.  Conciseness may be sacrificed for clarity.

Comments on conciseness

A concise index does not necessarily happen from the beginning of the indexing process.  An indexer may start with longer subheadings than what she will end up with in the final index.  In using longer entries at the start, the indexer can more easily see how to condense and be more concise in the editing stage.  One of the challenges in writing concise indexes is in maintaining clarity in the relationship between the main heading and the subheading.  In maintaining conciseness, the indexer should opt to use everyday language whenever possible, although the index must include the author’s terminology.

The indexer must find a balance between comprehensiveness and conciseness, favoring one over the other, depending on the text, deadline, publisher’s guidelines, and other factors.  The appropriate balance lies in how these factors fit with the text at hand.

Future blog postings will discuss the other factors of a quality scholarly index.  For more information on conciseness in a quality scholarly index, see the article by Margie Towery, “Comprehensiveness and Conciseness: Creating Better Indexes, Parts 4 and 5.”  Heartland Chapter of the American Society for Indexing Newsletter, Fall 2013

For more information about the services provided by the author of this blog, see the Stellar Searches LLC website,