Index Preparation

Indexes: A Guide to Authors Preparing Their Own

For a full explanation of indexes, with examples and discussion of the various methods of preparing them, see The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed., chapter 17, “Indexes.” Here we provide you with some general guidelines.
Ask yourself what kinds of things your readers may want to look up in the index. Under what heading will the reader be most likely to look for information? How full should the entries be? How inclusive should the index be?


The index to a scholarly book should be about one-twentieth to one-fiftieth of the length of the book. So if your manuscript ran to 360 double-spaced pages, your index will be about 15 to 36 single-column, double-spaced pages (indexes are usually typeset two columns to a page). This amounts very roughly to about five entries per page of the typeset text (about one to three new line entries and any number of new page references for already existing entries). If you find that your index is growing too long, you can edit it down later by eliminating less essential entries or combining subentries to save space.
Remember to leave a blank line between the alphabetic sections of the index (between the As, the Bs, etc.).
If the typesetter has a tight limit on the number of pages the index can run to, we’ll let you know.
Specialized books may have two indexes. For example, in addition to a normal index, a book could have an index of court cases and acts cited or of names of historic personages.

What to Index

Indexes usually list people who are quoted or discussed in the text (if you discuss a work extensively, you may also list it under its title, with the author’s last name in parentheses following); key concepts; and names of places and organizations if they’re significant to the subject matter of a discussion.
Do not index glossaries, bibliographies, author-date citations, notes that just give citations of works discussed in the text, appendices that reproduce documents discussed in the text, or material in a preface or acknowledgments.


We recommend going through the extra set of page proofs chapter by chapter with a highlighter. When you reach the end of each chapter, enter the items on the computer (this gives you a chance to review your choice of terms and to make sure you haven’t missed anything).
As you enter the items, it’s a good idea to note in what context they occur, so if you need to break the entry up into several subentries, you will be able to do so without looking up all the page references again. It’s easier to put in too much on your first draft and edit the excess out than to pad out a sketchy index.
When you’ve finished compiling the rough draft of the index, save it, and on another copy (perhaps a paper copy), go through it carefully, deleting unnecessary entries, tightening or combining others, and breaking some entries into subentries (especially if you have 7 or more page references following the heading). Check the punctuation (use the examples on these pages as a guide). Double-check the alphabetization and numerical order of page references.
If you’d like to show which page references are to illustrations (drawings, photographs), you may italicize or boldface that number in the list. If you do, you will need to insert, below the index title, a note explaining the distinction.


Entries are arranged flush left, and the continuation is indented a few spaces, for legibility. Subentries may be organized in one of two ways. The first is to have them run in a continuous line from the main entry. The second is to have them start on new lines indented below the main entry. For example:

air-conditioning, 2, 29, 62, 80, 139, 179
Alinari, Fratelli, 153
American hotels: chains, 171, 240; discrimination practiced in, 163–64; as exempla of free enterprise, 175, 176 fig.; as familiar structures, 2, 54, 191; ownership of, 162–63, 170–71; as public spaces, 162–63; as representatives of America, 7, 22, 35, 39, 78, 85; superiority of, 162; as technological innovators, 2, 6, 28, 66, 162, 167, 235–36 n. 16, 240 n. 84. See also motels
American Israel Basic Economy Corporation (AMIBEC), 118
art, local, 4-–5, 117; decorative role of, 5, 64, 84


air-conditioning, 2, 29, 62, 80, 139, 179
Alinari, Fratelli, 153
American hotels
chains, 171, 240
discrimination practiced in, 163–64
as exempla of free enterprise, 175, 176 fig.
as familiar structures, 2, 54, 191
ownership of, 162–63, 170–71
as public spaces, 162–63
as representatives of America, 7, 22, 35, 39, 78, 85
superiority of, 162
as technological innovators, 2, 6, 28, 66, 162, 167, 235–36 n. 16, 240 n. 84
See also motels
American Israel Basic Economy Corporation (AMIBEC), 118
art, local, 4–5, 117; decorative role of, 5, 64, 84


An item may be named in your book in one or more ways. Give the full index entry for the primary term, and for the alternate terms, direct the reader to the primary one. You may also want to list some page references under the heading for one entry and direct the reader to a closely related item elsewhere in the index.

Athens: Acropolis, 56, 67, 68 fig., 69, 215 nn. 54, 56; Acropolis Museum, Kritios Boy, 54–56; ancient monuments, 58–59 (see also Greek Ideal); Hotel Grande Bretagne, 3, 57; impact of Hilton, 67–69; layout, 57; model, 122; 20th-century reconstruction, 58–59

foreign policy, U.S.: disadvantageous to Hilton hotels, 141, 144; by Hilton hotels, 32, 46. See also anticommunism; cold war

Statler Hotels. See Hotels Statler Company


The entries are alphabetized A through Z, of course, letter by letter. If the entry is a term beginning with an article (as in the title of a book), move the article to after the first main word. Alphabetize numbers as if they were spelled out.
Subentries are also alphabetized by the first substantive word (not by the articles or prepositions preceding it, on the supposition that the reader will be searching for a word and the link terms are often a bit arbitrary).

Prelude, The (Wordsworth) 4, 67, 102

St. Albans, 189
Stamp Act, 242

10 Downing Street, 16

Wordsworth, William: childhood of, 4–5; and Coleridge, 7, 15; early literary influences on, 6–8; literary reputation of, 15. See also The Prelude

Prepared for Wesleyan Univ. Press by:
Maura High
Editing and Editorial Management
307 Blueridge Road, Carrboro, NC 27510
tel. 919/929-9523 • fax. 919/968-4335 maurahigh@mindspring