Indexing Skills

December 9th, 2021 in Tools by April Michelle Davis 0

How often do you contemplate the index when you pick up a book? We certainly use indexes, but how many of us really think about the mechanics of designing the index specifically for the book? And that someone constructed and wrote the index?

Creating the index for a book has its challenges. The indexer decides what information should be included in the index and then determines how to organize the information in a logical and useful manner for readers. The indexer reads the book; assesses the major themes, ideas, and facts; and arranges all of the information into an alphabetical list of terms the average reader would look up.

Indexing is a learned skill. If you are seeking to understand and master the skill of indexing, then the following tips will prove beneficial.

Be consistent.

Have the index page number styling match the styling system in the book or style manual being used. For example, 342–43 and 100–101 are the Chicago style for page numbers. Another style manual may have 342–343 and 100–101 or 342–3 and 100–1.

Keep cross-references logical.

Focus on convenience for the reader. If it takes equal or less space to supply a page number instead of writing a cross-reference, double post the page number. If there are several page numbers, a cross-reference may be the better choice. A best practice is to only use cross-references if there is additional information at the other entry.

Only use page numbers that relate to the topic.

Make sure all of the page numbers you are listing pertain to the actual entry. Just because the entry is mentioned, if it is not discussed, that page number should not be referenced in the index.

Think like a reader.

Whatever you decide to include and however you decide to organize it, make sure a reader would be able to find the information easily and use the index effectively.

To learn more about how to write indexes, please take my course Indexing 101, where in 8 classes I will teach you how to write and edit indexes.