Indexes: A Chapter from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition


For nearly one hundred years, The Chicago Manual of Style has been the authoritative reference for writers, editors, and publishers. Now in its fifteenth edition, the Manual has been thoroughly revised and updated. The chapter on indexing presented here has been reorganized, streamlined, and revised for the electronic age. It provides examples and recommendations on style and method for professionals, authors, and others who prepare indexes for published works.
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For nearly one hundred years, The Chicago Manual of Style has been the authoritative reference for writers, editors, and publishers. Now in its fifteenth edition, the Manual has been thoroughly revised and updated. The chapter on indexing presented here has been reorganized, streamlined, and revised for the electronic age. It provides examples and recommendations on style and method for professionals, authors, and others who prepare indexes for published works.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226104065
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2003
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 15
  • Pages: 56
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.20 (d)

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A CHAPTER FROM The Chicago Manual of Style
The University of Chicago Press
Copyright © 2003 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-10406-5

18.1 Scope. This chapter offers basic guidelines for preparing and editing an index. It covers both general principles of indexing and specifics of Chicago's preferred style in matters of typography, alphabetizing, and the like. Many of the guidelines apply equally to electronic works, which often require indexes (see 1.186).

18.2 Who should index a work? The ideal indexer sees the work as a whole, understands the emphasis of the various parts and their relation to the whole, and knows-or guesses-what readers of the particular work are likely to look for and what headings they will think of. The indexer should be widely read, scrupulous in handling of detail, analytically minded, well acquainted with publishing practices, and capable of meeting almost impossible deadlines. Although authors know better than anyone else their subject matter and the audience to whom the work is addressed, not all can look at their work through the eyes of a potential reader. Nor do many authors have the technical skills, let alone the time, necessary to prepare a good index that meets the publisher's deadline. Some authors produce excellent indexes. Others would do better to enlist the aid of a professional indexer.

18.3 The indexer and deadlines. Most book indexes have to be made between the time page proof is issued and the time it is returned to the typesetter-usually about four weeks. (For an illustration of how indexing fits into the overall publishing process for books, see appendix B.) An author preparing his or her own index will have to proofread as well as index the work in that short time span. Good indexing requires reflection; the indexer needs to stop frequently and decide whether the right choices have been made. A professional indexer, familiar with the publisher's requirements, may be better equipped for such reflection. For journals that publish a volume index, the indexer may have several months to prepare a preliminary index, adding entries as new issues of the journal arrive. The final issue in the volume is typically indexed from page proofs, however, and the indexer may have as little as a week to work on the last issue and prepare the final draft of the index.

18.4 Computer software. Computers and special indexing software can streamline the indexing process and substantially reduce the time required. No computer can produce a good index on its own, however; human intervention is always required. A computer can search, record, and alphabetize terms and can arrange numbers far more efficiently than a person. But it cannot distinguish between a term and a concept or between a relevant and an irrelevant statement. At best it can generate a concordance-a simple list of major words that appear in a document. Without human intervention, a computer cannot create appropriate subentries or cross-references.

18.5 Resources. For greatly expanded coverage of the present guidelines, along with alternative usages, consult Nancy Mulvany's Indexing Books (bibliog. 2.5). Anyone likely to prepare a number of indexes should acquire that work. For further reference, see Hans H. Wellisch, Indexing from A to Z, and Linda K. Fetters, Handbook of Indexing Techniques (bibliog. 2.5).

Kinds of Indexes and Components of an Index

18.6 Single versus multiple indexes. A single index, including subjects and names of persons, is usually the easiest to use. It is frustrating to hunt for a name or term only to find you are in the wrong index. Further, cross-referencing between subjects and persons is much simpler in a single index. Certain publications, however, such as journals and lengthy scientific works that cite numerous authors of other studies, may include an index of names (or author index; see 18.115-16) in addition to a subject index. An anthology may include an author-and-title index, and a collection of poetry or hymns may have an index of first lines as well as an index of titles. If two or more indexes must appear in one work, they should be visually distinct so that users know immediately where they are. In a biological work, for example, the headings in the index of names will all be in roman type and will begin with capital letters, and there will be no subentries, whereas most of the headings in the general subject index will begin lowercase and many subentries will appear; and if there is a taxonomic index many entries will be in italic. The running heads should carry the titles of each index.


18.7 The entries. An entry consists of a heading (or main heading), locators (see 18.12), and subentries and cross-references as needed.

18.8 Main headings. The main heading of an index entry is normally a noun or noun phrase-the name of a person, a place, an object, or an abstraction. An adjective alone should never constitute a heading; it should always be paired with a noun to form a noun phrase. A noun phrase is sometimes inverted to allow the keyword-the word a reader is most likely to look under-to appear first. For capitalization, see 18.10.

18.9 Subentries. An entry that requires more than five or six locators (page or paragraph numbers) is usually broken up into subentries to spare readers unnecessary excursions. A subentry, like an entry, consists of a heading (usually referred to as a subheading), page references, and, rarely, cross-references. Subheadings often form a grammatical relationship with the main heading, whereby heading and subheading combine into a single phrase, as in the first example below. Other subheadings form divisions or units within the larger category of the heading, as in the second example. Both kinds can be used within one index. See also 18.129. For sub-subentries, see 18.26-28.

18.10 Initial lowercase letters in main headings. The first word of a main heading is normally capitalized only if capitalized in text-a proper noun (as in the second example in the previous paragraph), a genus name, the title of a work, and so on. Indexes in the sciences often avoid initial capitals because the distinction between capitalized and lowercased terms in the text may be crucial. Traditionally, all main headings in an index were capitalized; Chicago recommends the practice only where the subentries are so numerous that capitalized main headings make for easier navigation.

18.11 Capitalization of subentries. Subentries are always lowercased unless, as in the second example in 18.9, the keyword is capitalized in text (a proper noun, a genus name, the title of a work, etc.).

18.12 Locators. In a printed work, locators are usually page numbers, though they can also be paragraph numbers (as in this manual), section numbers, or the like. When discussion of a subject continues for more than a page, paragraph, or section, the first and last numbers (inclusive numbers) are given: 34-36 (if pages), 10.36-41 (if paragraphs), and so on (see 18.13). The abbreviations ff. or et seq. should never be used in an index. Scattered references to a subject over several pages or sections are usually indicated by separate locators (34, 35, 36; 8.18, 8.20, 8.21). The term passim may be used to indicate scattered references over a number of not necessarily sequential pages or sections (e.g., 78-88 passim). Trivial mentions are best either ignored or, if needed for some reason, gathered at the end of the entry under a subentry "mentioned." For use of the en dash, see 6.83; for inclusive numbers, see 9.64, 18.13.

18.13 Inclusive numbers. Publishers vary in their preferences for the form of inclusive numbers (also known as continuing numbers). Although the simplest and most foolproof system is to give the full form of numbers everywhere (e.g., 234-235), Chicago prefers its traditional system (presented below), which more or less corresponds to the way numbers would be read aloud. The system is followed in all examples in this chapter. Whichever form is used in the text should be used in the index as well.

Roman numerals are always given in full, for example, xxv-xxviii, cvi-cix. For use of the en dash between numerals, see 6.83, 9.62-63.


18.14 General principles. Cross-references should be used with discretion; an overabundance can be irritating. They are of two main kinds-see references and see also references. Both are treated differently according to whether they refer to a main heading or to a subheading. See and see also are set in italics (but see 18.21).

18.15 "See" references. See references direct a reader from, for example, an informal term to a technical one, a pseudonym to a real name, an inverted term to a noninverted one, or vice versa. They are also used for variant spellings, synonyms, aliases, abbreviations, and so on. The choice of the term under which the full entry appears depends largely on where readers are most likely to look. See references should therefore be given only where the indexer believes many readers might otherwise miss the full entry. If the entry to which the see reference refers is about the same length as the see reference itself, it is often more useful to omit the see reference and simply give the page numbers under both headings. Such duplication will save readers a trip. Further, the indexer and anyone editing an index must make certain that no see entry merely leads to another see entry (a "blind cross-reference"). See also 18.46.

18.16 "See" references following a main entry. When a see reference follows a main entry, as it usually does, it is preceded by a period and See is capitalized. If two or more see references are needed, they are arranged in alphabetical order and separated by semicolons. They reflect the capitalization of the main entry.

18.17 "See" references following a subentry. When a see reference follows a subentry, it is put in parentheses and see is lowercased.

18.18 "See" references to a subheading. Most see references are to a main entry, as in the examples in 18.16. When a cross-reference directs readers to a subentry under another main heading, see under may be used.

An alternative, to be used when a see under reference might fail to direct readers to the right spot, is to drop the word under and add the wording of the subentry, following a colon. (Although a comma is sometimes used, a colon is preferred.) The wording of the cross-reference must correspond to that of the relevant subentry so that readers can find it quickly.

18.19 "See also" references. See also references are placed at the end of an entry when additional information can be found in another entry. They follow a period. See is capitalized, and both words are in italics. If the cross-reference is to a subentry under another main heading, the words see also under may be used. If two or more see also references are needed, they are arranged in alphabetical order and separated by semicolons. As with see references, see also references must never lead to a see entry.

If see also under does not work in a particular context-for example, when one of the see also references is to a main entry and another to a subentry-the word under should be dropped and the wording of the subentry added after a colon.

When a see also reference comes at the end of a subentry-a rare occurrence, and somewhat distracting-it is put in parentheses and see is lowercased.

18.20 Accuracy. In all cross-references, headings (and subheadings, if used) should generally be cited in full, with capitalization, inversion, and punctuation exactly as in the entry referred to. But a long heading may occasionally be shortened if no confusion results. For example, in an index with frequent references to Beethoven, "See also Beethoven, Ludwig van" could be shortened to "See also Beethoven" if done consistently.

18.21 Italics. The words see, see under, and see also are normally italicized. But if what follows (e.g., a book title or a foreign word) is in italics, the words are preferably set in roman to distinguish them from the rest of the cross-reference. This is not necessary when they follow italics.

18.22 Generic cross-references. Both see and see also references may include generic references; that is, they may refer to a type of heading rather than to several specific headings. The entire cross-reference is then set in italics.

When generic cross-references accompany specific cross-references, the former are placed last, even if out of alphabetic order.


18.23 Flush-and-hang style. In printed works, all indexes are set in flush-and-hang (or hanging-indention) style. The first line of each entry, the main heading, is set flush left, and any following lines are indented. When there are subentries, a choice must be made between run-in and indented styles.

18.24 Run-in style. In run-in style, the subentries follow one another without each one's starting a new line. They are separated by semicolons. If the main heading is immediately followed by subentries, it is separated from them by a colon (see first example below). If it is immediately followed by locators, these are preceded by a comma and followed by a semicolon (see second example below). Further examples of run-in entries may be seen in 18.9, 18.19, 18.145.

Chicago and many other scholarly publishers generally prefer run-in style because it requires less space. It works best, however, when there is only one level of subhead (but see 18.27). For the examples above in indented style, see 18.25.

18.25 Indented style. In indented style (also known as stacked style), each subentry begins a new line and is indented (usually one em). No colon appears before the first subentry, and subentries are not separated by semicolons. Runover lines must therefore be further indented (usually two ems) to distinguish them clearly from subentries; whether runover lines belong to the main heading or to subentries, their indention should be the same. (Indention is always measured from the left margin, not from the first word in the line above.) Cross-references appear at the end of the list of subentries. A period is used only before See, which immediately follows the main entry, not before See also. See and see under references are treated in the same way as in run-in indexes (see 18.24).

Indented style is usually preferred in scientific works and reference works (such as this manual). It is particularly useful where sub-subentries are required (see 18.28).

18.26 Sub-subentries. If an index requires a second level of subentries (sub-subentries), a mixture of run-in and indented styles can be used (see 18.27-28, 18.146).

18.27 Sub-subentries in run-in indexes. If more than a handful of sub-subentries are needed in an index, the indented format rather than the run-in type should be chosen (see 18.26). A very few, however, can be accommodated in a run-in index or, better, avoided by repeating a keyword (see example A). If repetition will not work, subentries requiring sub-subentries can be indented, each starting a new line but preceded by an em dash flush with the margin; the sub-subentries are then run in (see example B). Em dashes are not used where only one level of subentry is needed.

Example A (run-in index: sub-subentries avoided)

Example B (run-in index: subentries requiring sub-subentries indented with em dash, sub-subentries run in)


Excerpted from Indexes Copyright © 2003 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction....................18.1 Kinds of Indexes and Components of an Index....................18.6 MAIN HEADINGS, SUBENTRIES, AND LOCATORS....................18.7 CROSS-REFERENCES....................18.14 RUN-IN VERSUS INDENTED INDEXES....................18.23 General Principles of Indexing....................18.29 Proper Names and Variants....................18.32 Titles of Publications and Other Works....................18.47 Alphabetizing....................18.55 LETTER BY LETTER OR WORD BY WORD?....................18.56 GENERAL RULES OF ALPHABETIZING....................18.60 SUBENTRIES....................18.66 PERSONAL NAMES....................18.69 FOREIGN PERSONAL NAMES....................18.74 NAMES OF ORGANIZATIONS AND BUSINESSES....................18.86 NAMES OF PLACES....................18.88 Punctuation: A Summary The Mechanics of Indexing....................18.92 BEFORE INDEXING BEGINS: TOOLS AND DECISIONS....................18.100 WHEN TO BEGIN....................18.107 WHAT PARTS OF THE WORK TO INDEX....................18.109 MARKING PROOFS AND PREPARING ENTRIES....................18.118 EDITING AND REFINING THE ENTRIES....................18.128 SUBMITTING THE INDEX....................18.133 Editing an Index Compiled by Someone Else....................18.135 Typographical Considerations....................18.138 Examples....................18.144
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