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Indexer Q&A with Michele Moody

Indexer Q&A with Michele Moody

By Holly Miller |

Today is National Indexing Day! We wanted to honour some of the hard-working freelance indexers in whitefox’s network, so we asked them a few questions about the humble and indispensable art of indexing. Meet Michele Moody, who has 40 years’ experience indexing in the medical field, gardening and cookery, and in recent years has also been teaching seminars on editing and indexing.

How did you get into indexing?

I used to be a librarian, and my first boss did journal indexing. She told me about how it was done and suggested I joined the Society of Indexers, which I did, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work. 

I have been working as a copyeditor, proofreader and indexer since the early 70s, mainly in the medical fields. I had spent some years as a special librarian in medical companies such as Smith Kline and French, as it was originally known. But as I had a degree in Classics and a love of gardening, I also did tens and tens of gardening books. My Latin was really useful for both medicine and plant names. I now concentrate on gardening and cookery as my main subjects.

Why does indexing appeal to you and what are the benefits of working in this field? 

I like order and lists. I hate books with no index that need one, and bad indexes – cookery books for example that only list the names of the recipes, so Mrs Beeton’s Apple Pie will be found under M, and nothing under A. You will find my spice cupboard in alphabetic order for herbs and spices.

Technological developments have somewhat changed the way that indexers work – have you found this to be of benefit or hindrance to you, and if so, how? Equally, what are you able to do that computer programmes just can’t compete with? 

I first worked with 5 x 3 inch record cards, as we all did. Then along came indexing software which I eventually grappled with and find really wonderful. This software deals with organisation of terms, not choosing the terms themselves. Their downside is that I can’t index from a deckchair in the garden any more! Now of course there is much more on offer, but I only deal with back of the book indexing and not the electronic types of publications. I have no wish to learn about this type of indexing. I am sure computer indexing is much more sophisticated that it was. I used to get tired of having to explain to laymen that a computer index will produce strings of page numbers with no subheadings, and also will not discriminate between words that look the same but have different meanings, such as lime and lime – both words will sometimes appear in a gardening book!

What’s up next on your ‘must-read’ list? 

I really enjoy the modern books that are wide ranging in their interest, such as Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, or Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. I equally enjoyed the William Sansom series of Shardlake, the Tudor solicitor. I am wading through Wuthering Heights, again, for my bookclub.

You can find Michele Moody in the Society for Editors and Proofreaders’ Directory here.

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