An index provides access points into your
document (book, publication, etc.). Although the contents page may
provide as many as a few dozen entry points, an index provides
hundreds of access points making your work more accessible, and
therefore more useful, to more people. Rather than reading it
through once only it can become a reference work that readers will
want on their shelves.
Purchasers will often look in the index to
check how a topic is covered when deciding whether to buy a book.
Reviewers use the index to see what is included and, if the index
is poor or non-existent, it may be disparagingly mentioned in the
review. (Sadly, good indexes are very rarely mentioned.) Libraries
and schools also regard the index as important when selecting
Indexing software performs the mechanical
layout tasks for an indexer in the same way as word processing
programs perform the mechanical layout tasks for an author.
It cannot perform the linguistic analysis because of the complexities of language, particularly English.
(For examples of the problems, see here).
Nevertheless, index formatting software can save considerable time and ensure consistency. The most widely
used indexing software is
with a fully featured demo version which allows creation of a 300
entry index. Some word processors do have features to create
indexes automatically but these work around full text searches
It is possible to produce a concordance type
index, using word searches. These have problems, see
What is wrong with full text searches..., and must be regarded only as
aids to the user in their search for information, pointing them in
the right direction. A quality index will actually take the user
directly to the answer.
In some situations a full text search or low
quality index may be acceptable - for my CD collection, for
example, I am happy to use a search in a spreadsheet: it is easily
updated, for only occasional use and I always have plenty of time
when consulting it. For an index in the back of a book, however,
user needs will be varied and once published the index cannot be
changed - it is only prudent to provide the best possible index
and make the book as useful to as many people as possible.
an index, examine closely every part of the document, line by
line, and decide what an index user might possibly want to look
up for it to be helpful to them to be directed to this portion of
Add in cross-reference entries which are helpful to the user.
Sort and collate all these resulting index
entries into the format with which most people are familiar,
following the rules and recommendations as defined by the
international standard ISO 999 and any specific standards
relevant to the region in which the book is to be published. In
addition, your publisher may have standards of their own, with
which you must comply, to make your book match their other
publications. Using specialist indexing software to help with
this stage, can save considerable time and ensure consistency.
The most widely used indexing software is
with a fully
featured demo version which allows creation of a 300 entry index.
resulting index must then be edited, to make it consistent
throughout, and, quite possibly, reducing it in length to fit the
space allotted to it in the publication.
Producing the index requires a good
understanding of the subject matter of the document; good
linguistic knowledge to be able to choose index terms well;
knowledge of the rules and standards of index production; and
close attention to detail. While the author will have the best
knowledge of the document they may be so familiar with it they
find it difficult to see how it might be approached by a less
knowledgeable reader. They may well not be practised at indexing
and it is difficult to get a good result on one's first attempt.
A professional indexer will have the necessary subject
knowledge (or they will direct you to an indexer who has),
knowledge of indexing practices and standards and will use
specialist software which will reduce the time required to produce
the index and make later modifications easier.
Perhaps you would simply prefer to spend your
time doing things other than indexing.
would rather be dead than do it again.”
Bernard Levin after indexing his first book, quoted in
The main standards are:
ISO 999:1996 Information and documentation
– Guidelines for the content, organization and presentation
This International Standard is reproduced verbatim
as BS ISO 999:1996 and is the UK national standard.
BS 1749:1985 British Standard
Recommendations for Alphabetical arrangement and the filing order
of numbers and symbols
This British Standard gives
recommendations for the alphabetical arrangement of entries in
lists of all kinds. It covers the arrangement of numbers and
symbols but does not include rules for the form of entries.
Copies of these standards may be obtained from
For others which may also be useful see the
These standards provide guidelines which should
be followed in the absence of other instructions, however many
publishers have their own rules which must be used in order to
maintain consistency with their other publications.
The standards spell out the rules which indexes
must follow in order to be intuitive. Most people would find it
difficult to list the rules an index must follow but would be
quick to recognise when an index is difficult to use.
The text must be supplied to me at the final
proof stage, preferably as a pdf,
once the final page numbers have been assigned.
I will supply the index in the format
required by the publisher and I am happy to proofread the final
First, get a instant rough estimate from my
Instant Quotation <here>.
Then, for an actual quote, based on a
representative sample of your text,
Request a Quotation <here>.
I specialize in indexing Finance, Banking,
Economics and Computing texts, aimed up
to graduate level and beyond. I also index Classics, History,
Religious texts, Photography and Astronomy.
I may index texts aimed at a general
audience not requiring specialist knowledge. If I consider that I
am not the right person to index your document I will recommend
someone who is better qualified in that field.
Given the nature of indexing, professional indemnity insurance is not usually considered necessary.
If, however, for whatever reason, the client requires that I carry profession indemnity insurance then
I will take insurance cover, providing £50,000 of cover, for an additional charge to the client of £200 per annum,
paid with the client's first index fee of that 12 month period.
Camera Ready Copy requires formatting the completed index to the precise requirements of the publisher. This will include:
To make the numbers simple, let's say that I can index, 100 pages per day and have currently scheduled a 500 page book for delivery in 2 weeks time, that's 10 working days from now, then I have 50 pages scheduled per day:
50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50
If you then ask me to schedule your 500 page book for delivery in one week, then I can do that by shifting the work on Book One out to next week, still meeting the deadlines:
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
But now I have no capacity left. When my higher paying client calls and asks me to do an urgent job, then I must turn them down and that is unhelpful for them.
However, if I schedule your job with a three week deadline:
50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50
33 33 34 33 33 34 33 33 34 33 33 34 33 33 34
Now, when my other client calls, I can do their urgent job too:
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Being able to accept a client's short-date job solves problems for that client and makes them happy. Higher paying clients purchase more happiness.
So if you are paying the same rate as my other clients, then I can afford to schedule your short-date job. But lower price jobs must have longer deadlines to allow me to be responsive to my higher paying clients.