Audience: Who Are You Talking To?
By Shelley Quattrocchi
Who are you talking to? This was the question posed by Heartland Chapter member Sharon Hilgenberg in her presentation about the audience of an index. Attendees shared their own experiences and questions about audience issues.
Sharon emphasized that freelance indexers cater to the reader, and it is important to formulate who that reader is.
There are several ways to find out who your audience is. First, look at the title. For example, if part of the title includes the words “for Dummies,” it is safe to assume that the audience for the book is a beginner in the book’s subject area. Another clue is in the front matter. An introduction or preface may specifically indicate to whom the book is directed. The first chapter is also a good guide in defining audience. Seeing bolded phrases sprinkled throughout the book is another clue that the book is directed at the beginner.
What do we do with this information? Write a description of who is reading the book. It doesn’t have to be long; three sentences are usually sufficient. Although Sharon now formulates this description in her head, she started out by writing it down and suggested strongly that new indexers try this method.
Formulating a description of the reader—who is reading the book and how they are going to use it—can help an indexer guide his or her decisions on terminology. By preparing a description of the reader and thereby having a solid understanding of the audience, the indexer can readily explain to a questioning editor or author how decisions were made about what to include in the index.
Sharon also emphasized the importance of terminology lists and suggested listening to people who are well-versed in a subject, or auditing a class on a specific subject.
Sharon's presentation reminded us what indexers are all about—getting the reader to the needed information. While the ensuing discussion showed that this is something we all think about subconsciously, Sharon encouraged us to rethink our own approaches to clearly identifying just who we're talking to when writing an index.
© 2012 by Heartland Chapter of ASI. All rights reserved.