Indexing: How to do it

There are a number of software programs designed to assist with the indexing process, including Cindex, Macrex, PDF Index Generator, SkyIndex and TExtract. Most word processing software, such as Microsoft Word, also includes an indexing tool. However, as discussed in other articles on the topic (here on the Author Learning Center), no matter what software you use, the actual entries that will go into the index should be carefully considered and selected by the author. Below are some frequently asked questions about indexing.

HOW you index will depend on the software that you use. We’ll use Microsoft Word as our example. Here’s an overview of the process:
1. Ensure the book is well organized to begin with.
2. Identify the word or phrase you’d like to index and select it with your mouse
3. Click the option to “mark” the item as an indexed item. The location of this option will vary by the version of Microsoft Word that you are using. For example, in Microsoft Office 2007, there is a “Reference” tab in which you can find an “Index” section. The “Mark Entry” option is in that section. You just highlight your word and click “Mark Entry”.
a. Confirm the main entry
b. Note any cross references
c. Indicate if you are indexing the item as part of this page or as part of a range of pages
d. Note if you’d like the page reference to display in bold or italics
e. Click “Mark” and you’ll see that the Word application adds {XE} to the word you marked. This does not show up in the printed version of the book. It is used by the software to build the actual index later.
4. Continue through the book, marking all entries.
5. When complete, move your cursor to the location in your book where you’ll insert the index. Choose the “Reference” tab and in the “Index” section, click “Insert Index”.

A common question is whether you should mark words for indexing during writing or at the end. I would recommend against indexing while you write because you might be wasting time. We often edit out a great deal of a book. Why bother indexing content that may not make the final cut? Also, the arrangement of that content may change during editing and if you index page ranges but then move some of the content out of those pages, your item won’t be included in the indexed item. It’s better to get your book to the final version before you add the index so that you aren’t doing unnecessary work. What you CAN do during the writing process is keep a list of topics, names, places, etc… that you think should be in the index. Then, when the manuscript is finished, you can search for instances of that item and your index marking will move along a little faster. Ultimately you’ll need to read the entire manuscript and mark as you go (searching isn’t enough) but having a list of what you want to index can be a big help in the process.

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