How To Index Your Work

Preparing your index

Wiley's standard requirement is a single, combined index of subjects and names. Author names are indexed only where substantive in–text discussion of the author or his/her work is found. If you intend your index to record every instance where an individual's work is discussed in your book, please seek approval from your project editor as there may not be space available.

Specialized indexes of other topics, such as genera and species, geographical names (gazetteer), drug names, organic compounds, formulae, cases and statutes, or poetry first lines may be provided, after discussion and approval from your project editor.

If you need any help preparing your index, discuss any problems with your project editor to avoid any publication delay.

When and how to index

Indexing can be done at the time of manuscript submission using Word’s index function:

  • Obtain approval from your Wiley contact to use this function to compile an index.
  • You will be responsible for adding actual page numbers at page proofs because an index generated using Word manuscript pages does not meet the contractual agreement for a final index.

Or, after page proofs are produced:

  • From PDFs. If significant repagination of page proofs will be required due to corrections, the index can be prepared from revised page proofs. Please obtain the prior approval of your Wiley content management contact if you wish to index from revised page proofs.

Index length and deadlines

The ideal page length should be in the range 4-6% of total typeset book pages. For example, a 300-page book would have a finished typeset index of 12-18 pages each containing approximately 100 entries and subentries.

For particularly rich content a longer index may be appropriate but please discuss with your Wiley contact if this is your intention as there may be spacing limitations.

Usually the deadline for index submission is three weeks from receipt of page proofs. A serious delay in publication may result from a late–arriving index.

Adequate index preparation requires 10–15 hours per 100 typeset pages. For example, a 300–page book will require 30–45 hours of preparation. Please plan for sufficient indexing time.

Indexing helpful hints

  • Read the proofs or manuscript.
  • Make a list of terms to appear.
  • Separate these terms into main entries and subentries.
  • Add the page numbers for every meaningful reference to a selected term.
  • Alphabetize all main entries and main words of subentries. Prepositions and articles are not part of alphabetization.
  • Eliminate duplicate entries, combine similar entries (e.g. singular and plural forms of same term), and provide cross–references.
  • Identify patterns that can be developed further (in the structure of entries, in the type of cross–references).
  • Correct any residual typos or stylistic mismatches between the index and the final text of your book.
  • Check that all ‘see’ and ‘see also’ cross–references point to a valid entry and use the exact wording and spelling of that entry.
  • List entry page numbers in numerical order.
  • Put yourself in the role of reader. You know the book’s text and arguments best; however, step back slightly from the text and ask: What will your readers look for in the index?
  • Identify the most likely search terms. Consult indexes of books on similar topics to identify what is helpful and not so helpful for you as the reader.
  • Provide a consistent level of indexing throughout. Don't ‘over index’ some parts to the exclusion of others.
  • Index all important themes and concepts including those not directly mentioned in the Contents or heading structure.
  • Avoid listing every mention of proper nouns (people, places) just because they were picked up in your word search.
  • Distinguish between passing illustrative use and substantive discussion.

What not to index

  • Contents entries.
  • Preface, unless it contains substantive information not found elsewhere in the book.
  • Contributor names, unless their other work is discussed in detail in the text.
  • Notes, unless these contain substantive information.
  • References, Further Reading, Bibliography, or Glossary.


  • Follow the same capitalization, spelling, hyphenation styles used in the text after copyediting.
  • All index entries other than proper nouns should begin with lower–case letters.
  • When different terms or spellings for the same entry are used in chapters that have been written by several authors, only one variant should be chosen and used consistently throughout the index.
  • If you wish to, identify page numbers referring to figures by putting these in italics and those referring to tables in bold. Add an explanation of this usage in a note at the start of the index.
  • In a student book, it may be useful to embolden the index page number that corresponds to the introduction or definition of a key concept in the main text, but this shouldn't be used in conjunction with the above convention re. tables. Explain usage in a note at the start of the index.

Alphabetical order

Alphabetize consistently throughout letter by letter. Or if you are accustomed to producing indexes with word–by–word alphabetization you can deliver your index in that style.

The letter–by–letter system ignores spaces, hyphens, and other punctuation up to any comma marking inversion of the heading. So entries are alphabetized as a single string of characters (e.g. ‘publications’ comes before ‘public works’).

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

When an index entry consists of an adjective and a noun, alphabetic placement is determined according to the noun (e.g. reform, constitutional).

Mc and Mac are ordered letter by letter as they appear; de and De, van and Van are ordered under D and V respectively.

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

Order entries starting with foreign–language articles (such as Le or Il) letter by letter.

Entries that consist solely of numbers (e.g. 80386) are listed before the letter A.

Arrange single numbers as if they were spelled out alphabetically. For example, ‘10 Downing Street’ would come after ‘tempest.’

Entries that consist of symbols are listed after the letters (but see special rules for chemical terms).

Index entries

Index entries should not start with an article (e.g. ‘a’ or ‘the’) or preposition (e.g. ‘in,’ ‘on,’ ‘below’).

Main entries should be nouns, as concrete as possible. 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.’

Never use an adjective as an entry. For example, the adjective ‘absolute’ by itself is not a proper entry but ‘absolute humidity’ could be.

If an unfamiliar acronym or abbreviation is used as a main entry, it should be spelled out in following parentheses, e.g. TCS (Total Conservation Solutions).

If you index a person, include a first name (or at least an initial) even if the text mentions only the surname (family name). Try, as far as possible, to use first names or initials consistently across the index.

If several entries include the same key term, make that term a main entry and adjust the individual entries as subentries.

Double entries

Double entries occur when an entry could appear in two (or more) forms. Common types include:

  • Abbreviation and spelled-out form
  • Synonyms or name and pseudonym
  • Equally important halves of a headword: ‘breeding, fish’ and ‘fish breeding’

You do NOT require double entries where you have two terms for the same concept (example: either atomic absorption spectrometry or AAS). In this case, just list under the term you think a reader would be most likely to search for.

Where you think a double entry would be helpful, consider this question:

Does the reader need to understand that there is a relationship between the two terms?

  • If the reader would benefit from that understanding, use a ‘see’ cross–reference.
  • If this is not necessary, and if there are five or fewer page references and no subentries, then it is more useful to the reader to list all page references in both places.
  • List instances of either term in both places, unless the distinction between them is meaningful. In that case, you might want to list the alternative term under a ‘see also’ cross–reference.

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.

Where there are two or more synonyms for a word, use the one the reader is most likely to look up; don't include both with page references split between the two.

Subentries and sub-subentries

Set out subentries using indentation (one tab) rather than running them on. This is clearer for the reader where the index is quite complex, or main entries have numerous subentries.

Subentries should generally also be listed in alphabetical order, ignoring initial ‘small’ words such as ‘and,’ ‘at,’ ‘by,’ ‘in,’ ‘of,’ and ‘with.’ The exception to alphabetical arrangement of subentries is the chronological arrangement in history books and biographies, if it makes the development of a topic clearer to the reader.

You do not have to use prepositions with every subentry to show the relationship with the main entry (‘at,’ ‘in,’ ‘on,’ etc.). Such prepositions are most helpful when the relationship could otherwise be ambiguous. Where you do use prepositions, be consistent across similar entries.

We don’t recommend you use sub–subentries. But if you do, please set out using further indentation (two tabs).

Where possible make subentry structure match, e.g. if providing index entries for several politicians, index all as:

  • Politician name
    • bills passed
    • cabinet position
    • college
    • first post
    • schooldays

Indexing cross-references

Cross–references within an index are used either to point the reader to further information (‘see also’) or to another headword (‘see’).

A cross–reference indicated by ‘see’ does not also have page references: here ‘see’ means that the reader will find whatever they were expecting to look up here somewhere else in the index.

One use of ‘see’ is to point from a significant subentry under one heading to a main heading in its own right. The ‘see’ type of cross–reference is useful to link between synonyms or acronyms/abbreviations and full forms (but see ‘Double entries’ above).

A cross–reference indicated by ‘see also’ follows a set of page references or else is attached to a main heading that has subheadings. It is telling the reader that more information is available somewhere else.

To refer to a subentry, you can use the form ‘see X under Y,’ where X is the subentry and Y the main entry. Alternatively, to avoid a string of cross–references, you can use a generic term (italicized), e.g., see under individual element names.

Indexing notes

Notes normally present material that is more incidental than central to the main text. They should only be indexed if they contain substantive information.

Index references to notes should be in the form ‘96n’ where 96 is the page number.

Where you want to index content within a note, use ‘n.’ plus the note number (e.g. 96n.3) for a single reference or ‘nn.’ if you are making reference to more than one note appearing on the same page (e.g. 96nn.3, 5, 7).


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

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

Distinguish between continuous discussions of a subject over two or more pages (when the page reference is given as a single range: ‘30–36’) and discrete mentions of a subject across a passage of text (‘30, 31, 36’).

Page ranges should always be written out in full as follows: 16–17, 23–24, 113–114, 129–130, 200–211, etc. Don’t use ‘ff.’ (‘and the following pages’) give closing page numbers.

Note that when we typeset we will use an en–rule between page ranges, not a hyphen.

If you are not using a comma between each headword and its first page locator, put two character spaces there.

If you find that you are tempted to give a long page range (‘750–805’) coinciding with a whole chapter or to use a form such as ‘Chapter 7 passim,’ this is a good indication that you need to introduce subentries instead to break down the discussion.

Chemical terms

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. For example, 1,2–Diol is listed under D. and S–Hydroxytryptamine is listed under H.

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: Italic letters, Greek alphabet letters, small cap letters, 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

Submitting the index

  1. Single–space the index, leaving an extra line space between each letter of the alphabet.
  2. Email the index manuscript file to your Wiley contact according to the schedule provided.
  3. A PDF of your index is not necessary unless it contains any special characters which may be lost in transmission of a Word document or other file type.
  4. Provide a list of all special characters that won't display in the file.

Further information and advice

You can find useful additional information about how to index in the following online and printed content sources (listed in date order)

  • American Society for Indexing: [free].
  • Society of Indexers: [free].
  • The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers. 16th edn. University of Chicago Press. [behind paywall].
  • Butcher, J., 2006. Copy-editing. 4th edn. Cambridge University Press.
  • Ritter, R.M., 2002. The Oxford Guide to Style. Oxford University Press.
  • Booth, P., 2001. Indexing: The Manual of Good Practice. Munich: K.G. Saur.
  • BS ISO 999:1996. Information and Documentation: Guidelines for the Content, Organization and Presentation of Indexes. [behind paywall].
  • Wellisch, H., 1995. Indexing from A to Z. 2nd edn. New York: H.W. Wilson.
  • Mulvany, N.C., 1994. Indexing Books. University of Chicago Press.
  • Anderson, M.D., 1985. Book Indexing. Cambridge University Press