Hamill Indexing - Tips to Authors and Editors
Planning for the index during the writing process
Under many publishing contracts, the author is expected to either provide an index, or to pay the cost of having one created. Indexing is a highly professional and specialized field. A professional indexer can create an index to meet any style requirements, complete the project quickly, and create an index that identifies both the terms used and also anticipate the needs of the reader.
An index is a set of terms in alphabetical order, that provide access points to specific information in the text. An index links together information found at different places in a book. It cannot be replaced by a detailed Table of Contents.
Indexers often charge for their service by the number of indexable pages. Any page that contains information to be accessed in the index is an indexable page. Generally this does not include: captions to pictures, footnotes, the front material, and most of the back material in a manuscript. Many books will benefit from:
Resources section, for recommended books and websites,
Glossary, for terminology
Table of Abbreviations and Acronyms
These are helpful to the reader and will free up index space for more subject analysis of the material.
During the writing process
Be consistent in the choice of terms. Include synonyms with the introduction of a concept, but
then choose one term to use throughout. Define terms the first time they are used.
Identify people, places and organizations. At the first mention, give the name in full, along with
any acronyms. Use names consistently.
Include all indexable names in the main body of the text. Do not put indexable information in
the captions or the footnotes. If you have a large number of resources, such as book titles or
websites, they should be collected in a Resources section.
Don't repeat yourself. If the information is important to several sections of the text, you can
include the reference: “See chapter three for discussion of xxx”. Avoid the use of page
number references in the text. These often are incomplete as compared to the index entry.
Make a list of name changes, synonyms, pseudonyms and other idiosyncrasies for the indexer.
Term selection is the task of the indexer, but an author can keep a list of terms to check against
when reviewing the index. Ask the indexer to make changes as needed.
During the production planning process:
Make sure that your publisher understands the importance of a good index. Educators and librarians look at the usability of the index when making purchasing decisions. Plan for enough space. The average length of an index, for a general reference book, is 7-8% of the total indexable pages.
Tips to Authors - If you must index the book yourself
1. How are you going to assemble the index?
- Can you embed the index into your document?
- Will you have to type the index out ?
- How will you keep track of the main headings?
2. Select a set of style specifications and use them consistently.
Your publisher may be willing to provide a house style sheet.
3. Read the manuscript for proper names and for subject content,
at the smallest reasonable main heading level.
For example, in a book about the history of the BC forest industry, the reader could want to look up specifically: spruce logging or the Sitka Spruce Drive. As a result, “spruce” and ” Sitka Spruce” are entered as rough draft main headings. For the moment, ignore the larger picture, that is, that spruce logging will be a subheading under larger terms such as logging practices, export lumber and so on. These structural main headings are built from a set of basic main headings and general discussion.
4. Remember it is much easier to take out a main heading or to change it to a sub-heading, then it is to go back and find the material that has been missed. Many main headings will be deleted or moved when you edit the draft index.
5. Collect information at one term, where two or more terms are used interchangeably, or where the reader may look for a different term. For example, if your topic is gay and lesbian rights, pick one location for the information, in the example below, the main entry is `gay and lesbian rights'. Then create a set of `see' entries of alternate terms that the reader might look up, or that you have used in the manuscript.
homosexuals see. gay and lesbian rights
lesbians see. gay and lesbian rights
sexual orientation see. gay and lesbian rights
When the indexing process is finished, you may be able to double-post using some of these terms, if you have enough index space.
6. Not every mention of a name need be included in the index. In the example,
“Joe Smith, who worked at Apple Computers, wrote ...”
“Apple Computers” is a passing mention only. Consider the usefulness to your reader, over your inclination to be logically complete.
You may wish to read some author's experiences:
"My Last Index" March 18, 2012
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