Mechanics for indexing using a "pseudo-book"

Peter J. Taylor, June '97, slightly revised Nov. '02 & June '04 & '13, with macro for Word added in June '04


  • Much quicker than using index cards.
  • In edited volumes, the work can be distributed among the contributing authors.
  • No rush when you get the proofs, because most of the work will have been done.
  • All of the above allows the indexer(s) more time to step back, adjust the entries, so as to make best use of this last opportunity to influence how people read the book.
    (See useful advice about indexing)


    For editor, skip to step 4 after sending instructions for steps 0-5 to the contributing authors.

    The process begins after the authors check the copy-edited manuscripts. They should make a photocopy before returning the manuscript to the Press.

    0. Read and digest the indexing guidelines from the Press.

    1. While reading through a photocopy of the copy-edited manuscript underline in pencil possible terms to be indexed and add in the margin any additional terms not in the text. If some terms apply continuously to a run of pages please indicate by tracing a line up to the exact point the term stops applying. (If indexing begins after the proofs are available, mark up a photocopy of the proofs.) 2. Erase or add more entries to match a target total of about 1-2 times the number of pages in your manuscript.

    3. Type into a new file the index terms that correspond to each underlined term, one to a line, in order of their appearance in the text, repeated whenever they occur anew. Insert NP on a line to itself for each new page of the copyedited text, even if there are no entries for that page. (If indexing begins after the proofs are available, instead of inserting NP on a line to itself for each new page, insert a page break.) For a term that runs continuously over a number of pages, repeat it for each of the pages. The terms you type into this list should follow the guidelines from the Press.

    For single author, skip to step 7.

    4. Email this list to the book's editor. Based on terms that other contributors are indexing, the book's editor may suggest additions or changes, which you should both underline in the manuscript and insert in the right place in your list.

    5. When you and the editor have agreed on a final list for your essay, email the file of index terms and (if requested by the editor -- this is not strictly necesssary) send the book's editor the photocopy of the manuscript (or proofs) with underlining. Each contributor's job is then over.

    6. The editor then combines the different lists of index entries into one long list (in the same order as the essays appear in the book).

    Instructions to follow apply only to the editor or single author
    7. Revise the entries in the list until satisfied with the terms used, cross-references, etc. (To help in detecting inconsistencies, a version of the list in alphabetical order can be generated using the sort option available in most wordprocessors. An experienced indexer might be paid to review this version and make suggestions.)

    8. When proofs arrive, add page breaks at the appropriate points in the list (either by referring between the marked up manuscripts and the page breaks of the page proofs, or by directly refering to the proofs). Then strip out the NP lines. (If indexing begins after the proofs are available, this step can be skipped.)
    The result is the pseudo-book. This contains on page 1 the index terms for page 1 of the actual book; on page 2 the index terms for page 2 of the actual book, etc.

    9. Mark each line as an index term using your wordprocessing program. (It is possible to do this automatically in Word if you create and use the markindex Macro below.) Then use the wordprocessor to generate the index. This index can then be smoothed out in the wordprocessor to generate the final index.