An important component of your book is the index. Readers refer to it constantly and
reviewers often comment on its adequacy. A book's usefulness--and consequently its sale--
can be increased or diminished by its index.
Who Compiles the Index?
As the author, you are responsible for providing the index. You may find it worthwhile to
have a professional indexer do the job. If your book is technical or scientific in nature, we
urge you to prepare the index yourself, or at least have a colleague do it for you. Most
professional indexers will not have the technical knowledge to do justice to such an index.
Many word processing systems allow you to create your own index as you prepare the
manuscript. As you go along placing index markers, you may wish to create a reference file
of your main headings and the style of your entries. This step will help you avoid
As with any electronic file operation, check with your Editor to make sure that the index
created with your software will be compatible with the software used for the final version
of the book.
When to Index
Because the index is the last part of the book to be set in type, any delay in preparing it may
delay publication. Begin indexing as soon as you have read the first batch of page proofs
and keep the index up to date as further batches arrive.
What to Index
The first thing to consider is what to index. If you, as a reader would be likely to look
something up, include it in the index. If not, don't include it. If it's a "maybe," put the
Break down every main idea into the individual details readers are likely to look for; they
will seldom look in the index for the subject of an entire section or chapter, which appears
in the table of contents. Obvious items to index are names of people, organizations,
institutions, events, places, and so on.
Always look for the key word and index every item under its key word. Frequently, an
item contains more than one key word. In such cases index the item under each key word.
- Alphabetize items beginning with Mc or St as though the full form - Mac or Saint -
- Alphabetize entries beginning with figures as though the figures were spelled out -
"400 Club" under the Fs.
- Alphabetize abbreviations of government agencies, broadcasting companies,
publications, etc. according to the order of letters in the abbreviation, not as though the
names were spelled out.
- Alphabetize subentries according to the first principal word, ignoring any preceding
prepositions and articles.
- Capitalize the first word of each main entry; all remaining words should be lowercase
unless they require capitalization for other reasons.
- Separate each entry from its page number(s) by a comma; use a colon after an entry
without a page number if it is followed by a group of subentries.
- Make sure no entry consists of an adjective standing alone.
- Edit the entries to make them as concise as possible, striking out prepositions that are
not absolutely necessary to the meaning.
- Combine similar entries and provide cross references where necessary. Using cross
references avoids unnecessary repetition.
Keyboard the index electronically one column to a page, double-spaced. Then check the
accuracy of the index. Send the index file with a hardcopy printout to the Production
As soon as the Production Editor receives the index (from you or from the indexer who has
been commissioned to prepare it for you), it is sent to the compositor to be set directly into