Editing Your Index: A Guide for Project Managers

April 1998
by Janis Paris

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So your book is camera ready and about to be shipped-and your index arrives hot off the e-mail. Take the time to read it thoroughly. A good index will help sell your book.

Major Items to Check

First, examine the length. Is it as complete as you wished? If not, you may have to settle for making sure that the main topics are covered (all major headings should, of course, be noted). Are there any tables, illustrations, or figures that you would like to give special attention? Make sure they are mentioned in the index, with or without a notation in parentheses that it is a table or other special element. Or is the index too long, with entries that seem silly? Eliminate or rephrase anything that would insult the reader. How about the number of subentries per main entry? If there’s more than, say, twenty or so, you might look for ways to group some of them under a different item. For instance, “database” could be broken into “database basics” and “database management” with ten subentries each. If you’re dealing with an indexer you have not worked with before, you might like to spot-check a dozen or more entries. Pick an item in the index, note the page number, and then go to the page to see if the topic is really there (take careful note not only of the beginning of a discussion but where it ends as well). Next, reverse this process. Open the book to a page, note the topics you think are important, and see whether you can find them in the index. Most indexers read, duri…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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