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Subject: RE: [dita] Are indexterm ranges backwards incompatible?

If you look at the major style guides and Nancy Mulvany's critical text,
Indexing Books, you'll find that professional indexers always point to
ranges as reflecting an important  and extended discussion of a subject
and that a series of point page references does not convey the same
information, but points to individual mentions of a topic. Ranges are
not designed to make the index easier to read but to convey a level of
importance about the subject matter. 

As a reader of indexes, I also assume the same level of importance of a
range of pages. That's where I tend to look first, unless the index uses
bold (another convention in print) to indicate a key page on the
subject. Many indexes, of course, do both.


JoAnn T. Hackos, PhD
Comtech Services, Inc.
710 Kipling Street, Suite 400
Denver, CO 80215
joannhackos Skype
-----Original Message-----
From: Grosso, Paul [mailto:pgrosso@ptc.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, August 16, 2006 8:01 AM
To: dita@lists.oasis-open.org
Subject: RE: [dita] Are indexterm ranges backwards incompatible?


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Tony Self [mailto:tself@hyperwrite.com] 
> Sent: Wednesday, 2006 August 16 01:42
> To: dita@lists.oasis-open.org
> Subject: RE: [dita] Are indexterm ranges backwards incompatible?

> Thinking laterally... just an idea... The primary purpose of 
> presenting to the reader a range (pages 34-37) as opposed to 
> a series of points (34,35,36,37) is to indicate the greater 
> importance of the range. 

I disagree.

The primary purpose of merging page numbers in an
index is to make the index easier to read.

Ranges do not semantically imply importance.

> Expressing that semantically, the index markup 
> should simply indicate the content's importance. This would 
> mean the prolog index entry would be expressed as:
> 	<prolog><metadata><keywords>
> 		<indexterm important="true">cheese</indexterm>
> 	</keywords></metadata></prolog>
> if the author wanted to indicate that this is a major 
> discussion of the index term.

I agree one could have markup that allows the indexer
to indicate importance.  

And I suppose an implementation could allow the user
to decide how to reflect that importance in the resulting 

I would still argue that reflecting importance by using
or not using ranges would be completely lost on almost
all index readers and would therefore be a bad choice
for how to reflect importance.

> A DITA publishing tool may choose to provide the facility to 
> output contiguous "important" indexes as a concatentated 
> range (34-37), or perhaps in bold (as some "traditional" 
> indexes do), or perhaps only indicate the first page number, 
> or treat them like any other "point" index.
> Would the above mean that there would be no need for the 
> index-range element?

In some ways, there is no "need" for an index range element.
It is mostly a convenience to allow indexers to mark a sequence
of pages.  As an alternative, the indexer could just repeat the
pointwise indexterm at the beginning of each paragraph within
the range.

But the fact that many markup applications allow some form
of index ranges indicates it is a "nice to have" for users.

Importance and ranges are orthogonal concepts.


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