About Indexing

Every serious book of nonfiction should have an index if it is to achieve its maximum usefulness. A good index records every pertinent statement made within the body of the text.
                                                   —The Chicago Manual of Style, 14e

Indexing cannot be reduced to a set of steps that can be followed! It is not a mechanical process. Indexing books is a form of writing. Like other types of writing, it is a mixture of art and craft, judgment and selection. With practice and experience, indexers develop their own style as do other writers.
                                                  —Nancy C. Mulvany, Indexing Books

Hiring a professional indexer ensures quality and usefulness of the index as well as its completion within the timeframe required by the publisher. A good index enhances a book by providing multiple access points to the information contained in the text and by representing the richness of the book to potential readers and buyers.

Indexing can be viewed as a way of re-writing a book. While the index has to be faithful to the book, it serves different purposes than the text itself and the skills needed to produce it are different from those that an author has. That is why many authors, who are excellent writers and who obviously know their books very well, struggle when undertaking the task of preparing an index. An experienced indexer will study the text carefully to identify all important terminology and concepts, while considering the relationships among them and the best ways to represent them within the structure of the index.

Good indexers preserve the author’s vocabulary, but they also think of alternative ways of presenting the same information, so as to make sure that all readers will be able to find what they are looking for. Importantly, good indexers are detail-oriented and they pay close attention to spelling and page number accuracy. A frustrated reader, who has been led to search for information on the wrong page, can hardly appreciate the finer aspects of the author’s work.