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Style Guides

  • •  Style guides provide style preferences for headers, subheadings and page references, alphabetizing, as well as position and format of cross-references for a book index. Ask your publisher for their in-house style guide or which guide to use.
  • •  The most commonly used style guide is the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition. Chapter 16 is devoted to indexes.

º  Most clients have me index to the Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition,
   modified by their style preferences / in-house style guide

•  Larger publishers usually have their own in-house style guide.


Please forward a copy of the house style sheet and the copy editor's style
for your book by e-mail along with your Index Quote request


"It's the little things that make the big things possible.
Only close attention to the fine details of any operation
makes the operation first class."
J. Willard Marriott


Heading Styles

Book indexes can be written in a number of different styles and formats.
The five basic variations are illustrated below. If you have no particular
preferences or style guide, I can decide for you, based on what is most
appropriate for the text.

  • 1.  Headings and subheadings without caps:
    • Composite family
    •     dandelion, 67-68
    •     goat's-beard, 73-74
          goldenrod, 75-76
          wild sage, 110-111
  • 2.  Initial letter of heading and subheadings in caps:
    • Composite family
    •     Dandelion, 67-68
          Goat's-beard, 73-74
          Goldenrod, 75-76
          Wild sage, 110-111
  • 3.  Main heading has the initial letter in caps:
    • Composite family
          dandelion, 67-68
          goat's-beard, 73-74
          goldenrod, 75-76
          wild sage, 110-111
  • 4.  Main heading has all letters in caps:
    • Composite family
          dandelion, 67-68
          goat's-beard, 73-74
          goldenrod, 75-76
          wild sage, 110-111
  • 5.  Main heading has Initial letter in caps, and all letters in boldface:
    • Composite family
          dandelion, 67-68
          goat's-beard, 73-74
          goldenrod, 75-76
          wild sage, 110-11



When sorting alphabetically, there are two methods to choose from: letter-by-letter or word-by-word. The sorting is different in terms of how spaces, numbers and symbols are treated in the sort

There are also three variant forms of the letter-by-letter and word-by-word sort: Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), International Standards Organization (IS) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)


  • •  In letter-by-letter alphabetization, spaces and other characters are ignored
        during alphabetizing, and words are sorted as if they are run together.
        (Dictionaries and phone books are sorted letter-by-letter. Ever have trouble
        finding words or names in dictionaries or phone books?)
  • •  In word-by-word alphabetization, spaces are evaluated, so we sort letters up
        to the end of the first word and then stop. If two or more entries begin with the
        same word, then the second words are sorted.
  • •  Most clients prefer the word-by-word alphabetical sort for their index. Here is an
        example showing the difference:


Letter-by-Letter Sort

Word-by-Word Sort

endings end piece
endogenous end zone
end piece endings
end zone endogenous


Subheading Style In Book Indexing

Subheadings, which appear beneath the heading, can be formatted in either of two ways: " indented" or run-in".

  • •  An indented index has each subheading on its own line.
    • º  "Indented" format works well, if you have sufficient space for the index.
    • º  "Indented" format makes browsing through the index much easier.
    • º  "Indented" format is generally the preferred style. It is easier to read,
      for example:
      • Resources:
      •       college courses, 187-88
      •       horse trainers, 190-92, 200-202
      •       lectures, 187
      •       magazines, 182-83
      •       riding instructors, 189-90
      •       seminars and clinics, 188-89
      •       videos, 186-87
  • •  A run-in index, has subheadings immediately following on another,
    separated by a semicolon and a space.
    • º  "Run-in" format may be appropriate, if you have limited page space.
    • º  "Run-in" format is generally more difficult to read, for example:
      • Resources:
      •       college courses, 187-88
      •       horse trainers, 190-92, 200-202
      •       lectures, 187
      •       magazines, 182-83
      •       riding instructors 189-90
      •       seminars and clinics, 188-89
      •       videos, 186-87



Cross-References In Book Indexing

In an index, cross-references redirect the reader from one heading or subheading to another. Cross-references are important navigational tools, weaving various parts of the index together so that the reader discovers information and relationships within the book, that they might not otherwise have located.


  • •  A See reference indicates that there is no information contained at that entry point.  It points the reader to the correct location to find information on that topic.
  • •  A See also reference points readers to related information in addition to what is
       found at that entry.
  • •  See also cross-references can be located either at the beginning or at the end
       of an entry. Most clients prefer cross-references at the beginning.


Indented Index

  1. 1.  resources. See also books; horse professionals
          college courses, 187-188
  2.       horse trainers, 190-192, 200-202
  3.       lectures, 187
  4.       magazines, 182-183
  5.       riding instructors, 189-190
  6.       seminars and clinics, 188-189
  7.       videos, 186-187
  8. 2.  resources
  9.       college courses, 187-188
  10.       horse trainers, 190-192, 200-202
  11.       lectures, 187
  12.       magazines, 182-183
  13.       riding instructors, 189-190
  14.       seminars and clinics, 188-189
  15.       videos, 186-187
  16.       See also books; horse professionals


Run-in Index

  1. 3.  resources.
  2.       horse trainers, 190-192, 200-202;
  3.       lectures, 187;
          magazines, 182-183;
  4.       riding instructors, 189-190;
  5.       seminars and clinics, 188-189; videos, 186-187,
  6. See also books; horse professionals: college courses
  7. 4.  resources.
  8.       college courses, 187-188;
  9.       horse trainers, 190-192, 200-202;
  10.       lectures, 187;
  11.       magazines, 182-183;
  12.       riding instructors, 189-190;
  13.       seminars and clinics, 188-189;
          videos, 186-187.
  14. See also books; horse professionals

Page References In Book Indexing

The format of page numbers can affect readability and the length of an index.

In situations where space for the index is at a premium, using conflated page
references will allow more index to be squeezed onto a page.

Full page references are not compressed and easiest to read

  • dogs
  •       breed clubs, 242-248
  •       breeding of, 180-195
  •       nutrition, 26-29
  •       obedience, 275-284

 Conflated page references have an elision or compression of the page numbers

  • •  When page numbers are conflated, repeated numbers are dropped:
    • dogs
    •       breed clubs, 242-48
    •       breeding of, 180-95
    •       nutrition, 26-29
    •       obedience, 275-284