DNI Deutsches Netzwerk der Indexer
 Site Index
  > Rezensionen
 Duden –
       Satz und Korrektur
Witzer, Brigitte (Hrsg.)
Duden – Satz und Korrektur. Mannheim: Dudenverlag, 2003.
ISBN 3-411-70551-5
Rezension von (2003)
Zuerst erschienen in: i-Torque, No. 6 (July 2003), S. 7–8

New German Style Guide

A new edition of the German style guide Duden has just been published by Dudenverlag (affiliated with Brockhaus — a leading publisher of German reference works), replacing the old edition of 1986. In this 440-page book a small section of nine pages (within a chapter on editing) deals with indexing.

Though Duden emphasizes the importance of indexes to books, they claim that indexing can only be performed by authors or editors because only these would be knowledgeable about the content of a work. No mention is made of the existence of professional indexers and organizations! Also, they make a serious claim that indexing with cards is still quite common.

A few sample entries reveal some German idiosyncrasies, for example, en-dashes in front of subentries, en-dashes as a substitute for the leading part of a preceding main entry, and the absence of page ranges (locators consist of the first respective page number only, unless f. or ff. are used).

The remainder of this section deals solely with embedded indexing, which is presented as the latest state of the art without mentioning its various disadvantages. They also explain embedded indexing with XML tags and attributes which identify specific keywords. For large projects especially, this could be done using an XML editor connected to a database containing those tags and attributes. However, they neglect to mention that this would involve comprehensive vocabulary control and how to do that.

Unfortunately, important indexing aspects such as different alphabetization systems, run-in style, cross-references, synonyms, and dedicated indexing software are not covered at all.

Only by pure accident I found three more relevant passages on indexing in other chapters. No clue on these in the index to the book itself! Actually, the last third of the book is not indexed at all, though all those pages are clearly indexable.

A more thorough investigation of the book’s index revealed serious indexing flaws: apart from omitting important entries and locators, there is information scattering due to inadequate cross-references and synonym control, overindexing of subentries, and meaningless as well as incorrectly sorted main entries. There are even entries given more than once, for example, one appears as singular, plural, and with a cross-reference! It seems that this awkward index resulted from embedded indexing without any editing at all.

Conclusion: It is a pity that in this otherwise interesting style guide no attempt has been made to introduce the reader to modern indexing practices and standards. Instead, Duden retains various obsolete rules (probably based on the German standard DIN 31630: Guidelines on Printed Indexes) that are not compatible with international standards. It is ironic for them to mention that a bad index might backfire and damage the reputation of a work as a whole as well as that of its publisher.

For a more thorough treatment on German indexing (including coverage of the 1986 Duden edition) from a British perspective, see Michael Robertson’s pioneering article “Foreign Concepts: Indexing and Indexes on the Continent” in The Indexer Vol. 19, No. 3 (April 1995).