Thirty indexers and future indexers gathered for the 2022 ASI/PNW chapter virtual meeting on Saturday, September 24 to address the topic, Breaking Convention on Behalf of the Modern Reader with Cynthia Landeen. Her presentation started with an historical overview of indexing rules in guidebooks, such as Henry B. Wheatley’s How to Make an Index (1902). Next, she proposed that the standard rules for handling acronyms and initialisms (CAT scan, MRI) in trade books and K-12 textbooks do not serve the modern reader, and much discussion followed.
Cynthia focused next on how Google searching has affected the way people look for information. She connected the patterns of Google searching with the word order of subheadings, contending that modern readers do not do well with reversals (fireplace, installing) and are better served by a forward construction (fireplace installation). This proposal also generated a lot of worthwhile discussion.
The discussions were enriched by the diversity of the participants, who represented the full range of experience along with many indexing specialties. All of the participants came away with a richer understanding of the axiom, “It depends.” One person suggested that this phrase would be great on an indexer’s t-shirt!
The presentation and discussion were book-ended by a quick “name/location/fun fact about oneself” introduction at the beginning, and an informal social time at the end. Attendees hailed from as far away as Egypt and India, and points all over the United States and Canada, as well as from the Pacific Northwest area.