Preparing your index

Preparing your index

Decide how many indexes you need

  • Most books need only one integrated index.
  • Very long or particularly technical books may require separate subject/name indexes.

Set up your index document

  • Create your index in a Word document.
  • Use double-line spaced type.
  • Write your name and the title of your book at the top of the first page.
  • Leave a line space between each letter block (so, between the last term under ‘A’ and the first term under ‘B‘, press return twice).

Choose your method

  • Terms in your index should be arranged in alphabetical order, using either the letter-by-letter method (like a dictionary) or word-by-word method (like a library catalogue).
  • Let us know which method you are using when you send us your index.

Writing your index

  • Main entries should be a noun (with or without an attached adjective).
  • Use a comma after a main entry if it is followed by page references. If a main entry has no page references, only sub-entries, do not use a comma after it.
  • Separate references are written as numerals separated by commas.
    • For example: 68, 69
  • Continuous references are written as an elided page range. Omit any unnecessary digits. Numbers in the teens should show both digits.
    • For example: 23–4, 199–201, 211–13


  • Choose the synonym that readers are most likely to use as the main entry. Write your page references next to this main entry only.
  • Cross-reference synonymous entries to this using see and no punctuation.
    • For example:
      Averroes see Ibn Rushd

Related words

  • If entry words are related but not synonymous, index the relevant page numbers under each and use cross-references.
  • Cross-reference related terms using a semi-colon and see also.
    • For example:
      universal human rights, 222; see also Universal Declaration of Human Rights


  • Place each sub-entry on a new line, in alphabestical order by keyword, indented.
    • For example:
         ‘accidental’ causing, 32–3
         bureaucratisation of, 156, 158
  • Cross-references to sub-entries are placed on a new line with see also.
    • For example:
         ‘accidental’ causing, 32–3
         bureaucratisation of, 156, 158
         see also axis of evil; banality of evil


  • Please don’t use sub-sub-entries if at all possible.
  • If using a sub-sub-entry is unavoidable, list these on the same line as the sub-entry, separated by a colon.
  • Further sub-sub-entries are separated using a semi-colon.
  • Cross-references to sub-sub-entries take see also and follow on the same line.
    • For example:
        ‘accidental’ causing, 32–3
        bureaucratisation of, 156, 158
        concept of, 1, 8, 43: abuse of, 6, 45, see also trivialisation; contested, 126, 128

Multiple cross-references

  • Separate multiple cross-references with semi-colons.
    • For example:
      rights see citizenship rights; human rights; liberty

Spelling and punctuation

  • Be consistent: use the same spelling, capitalisation, italicisation and hyphenation as the rest of your book. The copy-editor will already have ensured that these are the same throughout your text so, if in doubt, refer to your proofs.
  • Only use a capital letter if the word in the text uses a capital letter.
  • Index Mac, Mc and M’ as though they were all Mac.
  • Index ‘Saint’ and ‘Street’ as if they were spelled out in full, even if they appear as abbreviations.


  • Only reference notes if they contain information that is not mentioned in the main text.
  • Index a note as the page number that the note itself is on, with a lower-case ‘n’ afterwards.
    • For example: 169n.

What not to index

  • The preface or foreword.
  • Terms that are mentioned without details.
  • People who are only mentioned in references or notes.
  • Bibliographies or references.
  • Terms that are used throughout your book.

Need any help?

If you have any questions about indexing, your desk editor will be happy to help. We’d prefer that you asked for help rather than muddle along as it will speed things up for you and us.

Download a sample

We’ve prepared a short sample index to guide you as you compile your own.