Index Preparation


The last part of the manuscript to be prepared is the index. This final stage cannot be completed until the text is typeset into pages.

Our standard schedule calls for the index to be submitted within one week of the date you return the final set of page proofs. Basic entries will have to be assembled before this point, since the index must be finalized very quickly.

Who Prepares the Index?

Consult your contract. Usually, the index is the author's responsibility, but other commitments may prevent you from being able to prepare it. If you should have this problem, we will find a professional indexer for you. Wiley has on file the names of excellent indexers with expertise in various disciplines. If you do require the services of a professional indexer, let your editor know this when you submit your master manuscript and the necessary arrangements will be made. Wiley usually deducts the cost of the index preparation from your future royalties. Consult your editor for confirmation of these financial arrangements.

Should I Use a Computer?

Although some authors still use the index-card system, most now input their entries using a word processing program having indexing features such as Microsoft Word or WordPerfect. Such programs eliminate many of the tedious jobs involved in compiling an index, for example, alphabetizing. They can be great time savers for both the author and the production staff.

Should you prefer to work with index cards, Chapter 17 of The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition (University of Chicago Press) offers excellent instructions.

Preparing the Index Manuscript

Begin the initial stage of indexing as soon as you can. Because of the one-week deadline, it is important that the body of the index be completed before entering the page numbers.

IMPORTANT: If the galley proof stage is omitted and your book is set directly into pages, it would be wise to begin the initial stage of indexing while you are preparing your manuscript.

Here are some guidelines to help assemble an effective index.

On a duplicate set of manuscript pages, select and underline the words and phrases you want to appear in the index. In making your selections, you may find these suggestions helpful:

  • Ask yourself how your readers will use this index. What topics and statements are pivotal to your subject area?

  • Index by single nouns or short phrases, not by adjectives. For example, the adjective "absolute" by itself is not a proper entry. "Absolute humidity" is. (You may also want to include "Humidity, absolute" as another entry or as a cross-reference.)

  • Index by concrete nouns. For example, "Characteristics of algae" is an acceptable topical heading in the text, but readers are not likely to look for information about algae under the abstract noun "characteristics." The proper index entry is "Algae, characteristics of."

  • In the margin alongside underlined passages, rephrase any selections that are not suitable index entries.

If you can determine which selections should be subentries at this point, distinguish between them by underlining them in different colors, say red for main entries and blue for subentries. If you have two levels for subentries, use another color for sub-subentries.

As you receive each batch of page proofs, add the appropriate page numbers to the index entries.

Final Stages

Once you have added page numbers to all the index entries, you are ready to begin alphabetizing and editing the entries and preparing the index manuscript.

General Rules for Alphabetizing

  • Alphabetize entries and subentries letter by letter up to the first punctuation mark, ignoring any spaces or hyphens between words:

      Fat, 16
      Fat-free diet, 210
      Fatigue, battle, 112-124
      Fatigue points, 167
      Fat metabolisms, 21

  • Disregard prepositions and conjunctions except when they occur in a title or compound noun (as in "signal-to-noise," for example).

  • When an entry appears in both the singular and the plural form, combine the two, add an "s" in parentheses, and alphabetize in the singular form:

      Fire, 22, 33, 44
      Fire departments, 123
      Fire detection
      automated systems, 132
      in hospitals, 155
      infrared detectors, 159
      stages, 24
      suppression systems, 111


      Fire(s), 22, 33, 44
      stages, 24
      suppression systems, 111
      Fire departments, 123
      Fire detection
      automated systems, 132
      in hospitals, 155
      infrared detectors, 159

  • Alphabetize St. as Saint and U.S. as United States.

  • Arrange single numbers as if they were spelled out alphabetically:

      Tacoma, Washington, 182
      10 Downing Street, 54
      Tuscan balustrades, 77

  • Arrange groups of numbers numerically, positioning them ahead of word entries:

      3-speed, 33
      5-speed, 55
      10-speed, 110
      gears, 23-27, 34, 45-50

Rules for Alphabetizing Scientific Material

Chemical terms are first alphabetized by compound name, disregarding all prefix symbols, numbers, and letters. Ignore parentheses and brackets surrounding the word parts of the compounds.

If the same compound is presented several times but with different prefixes, these entries should be sorted by arranging the prefixes in the following precedence:

  1. Italic letters
  2. Greek alphabet letters
  3. Small cap letters
  4. Numbers

If the same compound is presented both with and without a prefix, the compound without a prefix comes first. For example:

    Aminoanthraquinone, 512
    1-Aminoanthraquinone, 514
    7-Aminoanthraquinone, 517

In the subsort of like compounds, the prefix has priority, with numbers in the body of the entry the next priority. For example:

    2-Methyl-1-1,3-butadiene, 998
    3-Methyl-1,2-butadiene, 997
    1-Naphthol-3-sulfonic acid, 1153
    1-Naphthol-4-sulfonic acid, 1128
    2-Naphthol-1-sulfonic acid, 1154


When the index entries are in alphabetical order, the job of editing begins. This involves eliminating duplicate entries, combining similar entries, and providing cross-references.

If several entries include the same key term, make that term a main entry and adjust the individual entries as subentries. For instance, suppose you have the following entries beginning with "Terra cotta":

    Terra cotta anchoring systems, 228
    Terra cotta construction, 229
    Terra cotta planters, 544
    Terra cotta veneer, 321

These entries are to be arranged so that all four subjects become subentries under the main entry "Terra cotta." In the completed index they will appear as follows:

    Terra cotta
    anchoring systems, 228
    construction, 229
    planters, 544
    veneer, 321

Similarly, suppose you have selected these following entries:

    Feudalism, 333-345
    Characteristics of feudalism, 334-335
    Early feudalism, 335-339
    Feudalism and manorialism, 342
    Feudalism in Western Europe, 340-342
    Medieval feudalism, 339-340

These entries can all be grouped as subentries under the main entry "Feudalism" and be listed like this:

    Feudalism, 333-345
    characteristics of, 334-335
    early, 335-339
    and manorialism, 342
    medieval, 339-340
    in Western Europe, 340-342

IMPORTANT: Main entries followed by a long line of page numbers will force the reader to plow through many pages before finding the needed information. A good rule of thumb is to try to furnish subentries when there are more than five or six page references.


Cross-references, when properly used, can add to the quality of an index. Keep in mind when inserting a cross-reference that it should lead to additional information and not merely to the same subject worded differently.

There are two types of cross-references: "see" and "See also".

A "see" reference is used when there are several main words the reader might look under, for instance, "Clubs, Societies, and Organizations." You may wish to list them under one main heading and refer the reader to it in this way:

    Clubs, see Organizations
    Societies, see Organizations

A see also reference is used to direct the reader to additional information elsewhere in the index:

    Radiation, 498, 505, 666. See also Electromagnetic waves

Always make sure that each cross-reference appears exactly as cited in the main heading.

Cross-Reference Punctuation

For a main entry with no page numbers and no subentries, the cross-reference should be preceded by a comma and "see" (in italics with a lowercase "s"):

    Trucks, see Motor Vehicles

For a main entry with no page numbers but with subentries, the cross-reference should be preceded by a comma and "see also" (in italics with a lowercase "s"):

    Cars, see also Motor vehicles
    custom, 568-571
    family, 257, 570

For a main entry with page numbers, the cross-reference should be preceded by a period and "See also" (in italics with a capital "S"):

    Behavior rehearsal, 47, 52, 209. See also Role playing

For a subentry with no page numbers and a cross-reference that pertains specifically to that subentry, the cross-reference should be preceded by a comma and "see" (in italics with a lowercase "s"):

    high explosive, see Explosive(s)
    of liners, 171-172

For a subentry with page numbers and a cross-reference that pertains specifically to that subentry, the cross-reference should be preceded by a period and "See also" (in italics with a capital "S"):

    author's responsibility concerning, 246
    date of, 238-241. See also Date of publication
    duration of, 345

If two or more cross-references pertain to the same main entry, enter them in alphabetical order and punctuate as shown below:

    Manic-depressive illness, 4, 42. See also Bipolar disorder; Mania

If a cross-reference is a subentry under another main entry, refer the reader to the subentry as shown below:

    Residences, 234. See also Buildings, private sector

Completing the Index Manuscript

The final index manuscript should be double-spaced in single-column format and presented in the following style:

  • Main entries and cross-references begin with a capital letter.

  • Each subentry appears on a single line and should be indented and lowercase unless, of course, it is normally capitalized. The same is true for sub-subentries.

  • Main entries with no page numbers and followed by subentries have no punctuation:

      baseball, 22
      football, 24
      log rolling, 26

  • Page numbers are listed in numerical order and are separated from their entries and each other by commas:

      Transition graphs (TG), 86-94, 100, 108, 137

  • Page numbers in ranges are always written out in full:

    Aggression, 380-386


    Aggression, 380-6 (or 380-86)

Submitting the Index Manuscript

The index manuscript must be submitted within one week after you return the last of the page proof. Time is critical at the indexing stage and a late-arriving index may cause the loss of the scheduled printing date and seriously delay publication.

Author's Guide to Art Preparation Author's Guide to Copyrights and Permissions Author's Guide to Preparing Camera-Ready Copy Author's Guide to Index Preparation Author's Guide to Checking Copyediting and Proof Author's Guide to Preparing Your Manuscript