Blog to Book Project — Indexing

If your book is any kind of reference book, including cookbooks, you may wish to include an index. An index is an alphabetized list of terms which provides the page number or links to the words in the main text. 

Unless you are indexing a proper noun, the index entry begins with a lower-case letter. If the entry is an acronym or abbreviation, spell it out in parentheses. 

Try to use concrete nouns as index entries and be as specific as possible. For instance, in a book about herbal remedies, chamomile is a better entry than herbs with flowers

When you want to cross-reference an entry with another use See also and list the alternate entry. Therefore after the entry chamomile, you might have See also herbs for sleep which lets the reader know that additional information about chamomile can be found under the entry herbs for sleep. 

After the entry name, list the page numbers that the term can be found. Use a comma to separate the entry name and page numbers.Page numbers should be separated by commas and listed in numerical order. If you are including a page range, use a hyphen between the first and last page. 

chamomile, 12, 36, 58-60. See also herbs for sleep

You can include tables and images in your indexing. To let the reader know that the page number refers to an image or table rather than text, then use italics or bold to differentiate the number. Make sure to include a note at the beginning of the index to the effect that “Page numbers in italics refer to images.” 

If you have more specific terms under a general heading, indent the sub-categories. 

Front and back matter do not need to be included in an index. Indexing is primarily for the main body of text in your book. 

The index should be the very last writing you do for your book. You should wait to create an index until after you’ve done your final proofreading and editing. The reason for this is that changes in the text of your book will impact the index page numbers or links. 

If you are not sure whether your book needs an index or not, then check other books similar to yours. Do any of them have indexes? Does it benefit the reader? How is it set up? What types of terms are included? 

Also ask yourself if you have about 20 primary subjects worth indexing in your book or not. If you don’t, you probably don’t need an index at all. 

The American Society for Indexing has an excellent resource about indexing that you can download here. You can find detailed instructions on how to create an index using Microsoft Word here. Pressbooks also gives instructions on how to set up an index with their platform here

Assignment: Decide if your book needs an index. 

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