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Pagebreaking and
Column-Breaking an Index
By Seth A. Maislin

[ Jump to: heading orphans || line orphans || continued lines || FrameMaker ]

  This guide is designed for somebody who needs to take page-break and column-break and already existing index. Below are the basic rules of breaks; after that is a short explanation of how to create those breaks using FrameMaker.

What to Look For

  First of all, you should make sure the index is finished. All page and column breaks are implemented manually. If for any reason the index is going to be regenerated from the embedded tags, then all your breaking work will be summarily discarded. So make sure the index is finished. Have you received and implemented the comments from the appropriate people? Have you spell-checked the index? Checked the page layout and design? Checked the page numbers?

  There are three basic ideas involved, and, unfortunately, the first two ideas tend to work against each other in practice. The first is "line orphans": isolated lines at the tops and bottoms of columns and pages. The second is "heading orphans": index heading lines, such as subheadings and sub-subheadings, that get separated from their defining hierarchy. If you are able to create an index that has neither line or heading orphans, then you can worry about the third idea: even column lengths. Let's start with heading orphans.

Heading Orphans

  An index locator can have three levels (in general): the main heading, the subheading, and the sub-subheading. Each level has its own indentation length. The main heading is not indented, subheadings are indented a single unit, sub-subheadings are indented two units. Here is an example (without page numbers) of three heading levels:
     main level (main heading)
        secondary level (subheading)
           tertiary level (sub-subheading)
Your goal is to disallow increases in indentation across columns and pages. This is because a increased change in indentation is very hard to recognize without the relatively longer time right above it. For example, can you tell if the following line is a subheading or a sub-subheading?
        commands for, 63
Exactly. :-) So, to avoid heading orphans, breaks cannot occur:
  • after a main heading and before a subheading,
  • after a subheading and before a sub-subheading, or
  • after a letter head (see below).
  Consider the following index segment. The first line is the letter head, identifying the starting letter of the following text.
     Concept virus, 9, 213
        formats, 107, 222
           Go To Special for, 238
        statements (see =IF( ))
     connecting AutoShape objects, 71-72
     connecting to Internet, 239-246
     controls, 47
        button controls, 47-49
        column headers as, 294-297
     conveyance controls, 79
Putting breaks in the following places would create heading orphans:
  • After the "C" letter head
  • After "conditional"
  • After "formats"
  • After "controls"

Line Orphans

  Now let's make things more complicated and consider line orphans. A line orphan in an index is a line that is separated from previous lines if the previous lines are less indented. The purpose of avoiding line orphans is to ensure that headings at the same level are in groups of at least two lines. Here are places that you breaks are not allowed:
  • before a subheading followed immediately by a main heading,
  • before a sub-subheading followed immediately by a main heading,
  • before a sub-subheading followed immediately by a subheading,
  • before a main heading followed by a letter head, or
  • after a main heading preceeded immediately by a letter head.
Looking again at the previous example, putting breaks in the following places would create line orphans. Can you see why?
  • Before "conditional"
  • Before "Go To Special for"
  • Before "statements"
  • Before "column headers as"
  • Before "conveyance controls"
  Now you can start to see why these work against each other. Combining our awareness of line and heading orphans, there are only a few places remaining where it is okay to break the text:
  • After "statements"
  • After either "connecting" line
  • After "column headers as"
  In summary, breaks can occur only in the following very specific places:
  • After two main headings, before a letter head
  • After two main headings, before two more main headings
  • After two main headings, before a main heading followed by a subheading
  • After one subheading, before a letter head
  • After one subheading, before a main heading and another line
  • After two subheadings, before two more subheadings
  • After two subheadings, before a subheading followed by a sub-subheading
  • After one sub-subheading, before a letter head
  • After one sub-subheading, before a main heading and another line
  • After one sub-subheading, before two subheadings
  • After two subheadings, before two more subheadings
Naturally, this is not a list you want to memorize. It doesn't even make a good checklist. So the key is to understand why breaks at various places are bad ideas, and to try your hardest to maintain higher-level context of every line.

Continued Lines

  Continued lines are manually included headings that are inserted at the tops of certain columns and pages to identify hierarchy. They are used only when the first entry of a column or page is separated from higher-level headings; that is, a continued line will never appear above a main heading.

  The content of the continued line should include all the levels higher than the heading that follows it. If the first line of the column is a subheading, then the continued line should be identical to the text of the previous main heading, plus the word "continued" (or something equivalent).

  The rationale behind continued lines is that the first entry of a column appears without context; for example, the heading to which a top-of-column subheading belongs is not identified. Continued lines are repetitions of headings that appeared in previous columns, added above top-of-column entries to provide context. These illustration should clarify what I mean:
No continued line:
     button controls, 47-49
     column headers as, 294-297
Continued line:
   controls (continued)
      button controls, 47-49
      column headers as, 294-297
  Including a continued line offers a two different advantages. First, it provides conceptual context. In the first of the two examples above, it is unclear to what larger concept "button controls" belongs. Second, it provides a visual context for determine hierarchical level. Again in the first of the two examples, it is not obvious that "button controls" is actually a subheading.
     conditional, Go To Special for (continued)
        statements (see =IF( ))
  When placing continued lines above sub-subheadings, there are two different styles available to you. The first (which I prefer) is to include a separate continued line for each level "missing" at the top of the column:
   conditional (continued)
      formats (continued)
         Go To Special for, 238
         identifying in comments, 80
The second style is to concatenate all upper levels by commas and place the line at the main heading level (with the appropriate hanging margin).
   conditional, formats (continued)
         Go To Special For, 238
         identifying in comments, 80
As fas as formatting the line itself, there are several possibilities. Using the word "continued" in parentheses without formatting, as I've writte above, is perhaps the simplest. Other styles include using italics for the word "continued," abbreviating the word as "cont'd" or "cont.," using brackets instead of parentheses, and various custom combinations:
   conditional, continued
   conditional (cont'd)
   conditional (cont.)
  There are several opinions regarding the placement of continued lines. One group of indexers argues that continued lines should be used at the top of every column where they are needed. Another group argues that the continued lines should be used only the tops of columns on verso (even-numbered, right-hand) pages; they believe that context is relatively obvious in all other cases, because it's right there on the page at the bottom of the previous column -- unless that previous column is on the other side of the paper sheet. A third group argues that continued lines should be used at the tops of each page's first column, not just the first column of verso pages. Personally, I'm comfortable with either the first or second styles (all columns, or only first right-page columns). I think the decision should be driven by overall page format. If your pages have two short columns with large text, you don't need continued lines on every column. The longer your columns and smaller your font size, the more you should want continued lines. The more columns you have on a page, the more you should use continued lines sparingly.

  As an alternative to frequent continued lines, I have seen indexers include guide words in the upper margin (as in a dictionary). These guide words identify the first and last main headings on a page. Although guide words can be helpful, I have found that often go unnoticed unless they are prominently displayed in large, boldface text (for example). I also question their usefulness unless the index as a whole runs very long.

  Finally, when all the breaks are made and the continued lines inserted as necessary, the columns may end up rather uneven. Do your best (within the rules of orphans) to even out the columns on a single page. If you are feeling really fancy, you can try to even them across opposite pages as well, but that's really hard and in most cases unnecessary.

  For those of you who understand that breaking a page anywhere could prove impossible, recognize that an index can be rewritten slightly to make breaking easier. If you do choose to edit the index content, however, consult the indexer or someone "in the know" first.

Breaking in FrameMaker

  Breaking the columns and pages in FrameMaker is surprisingly easy, but only once you realize what you are doing! :-) To push text to the beginning of the next column or page, insert the cursor before that text and select the Page Break item in the Special menu (or else type ! s p b). This will give you the Page Break dialog box. Choose the "At Top of Next Available" button and then, from the selection list, choose either "Column" or "Page," depending on what you want. Then select the Set button. That's it! (Don't use the options "Left Page" or "Right Page" for the index.)

  Here's the only catch: Your breaking instructions are fixed until you unset them. This means that if want to break the text somewhere else nearby, you need to undo your earlier break first. To do this, put your cursor at the line you want FrameMaker to treat normally (i.e., not as text to start a column/page), use the same Page Break dialog box again and select the "Wherever It Fits" button. The select the Set button.

  Finally, remember that your breaks are immediately deleted when you regenerate the index. Thus it's always a good idea to save breaking until the absolutely last possible minute. To help you remember, be sure to include an instruction to this in some sort of out-the-door QA checklist.

Copyright 2000 Seth A. Maislin


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