Book Indexing

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Copyright 2016 by Morris Rosenthal

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Make Your Own Book Index In Microsoft Word

Somebody posted a note on my YouTube channel a few weeks ago asking me to make a video about book indexing. I believe I first used the index option in Word back in Word 2.0, which would have been 1988 or thereabouts, and it's changed very little since then. Which is a good thing, because it's one of those exceptions where Microsoft got it pretty much right the first time around. You make an index in word by tagging words for the index, and then using the "Insert" menu to insert the complete index when you are done. You can still add to the index after that, and best of all, Word recomputes the page numbers that go with each index entry every time you update the index. The main problem most would-be indexers encounter is figuring out how to mechanically mark the entries. You just highlight each new word you want in the index with your mouse and hit Ctrl-Alt-X, which pops up the "Mark Index Entry" shown to the right. In this case, I'm marking the word "taxes" in my Mortgage Math Workbook. Upon being market for the index, Word inserts some nasty looking code (see below) which you'll see if you work in word with the formatting marks displayed. That means the the page you see on the screen won't be the same as the page that prints (non-WYSIWYG), so before you format or print the book, go to Word Options and and uncheck the "Show all formatting marks" box.
That's really all there is to book indexing in Word, from the mechanical standpoint. While specialists may use special book index software that gives them more control, Word is widely used by trade publishers and self publishers alike because it does such a good job with large documents (books) and can also serve as pre-press software. But what happens if you're an author whose publishing contract stipulates that you will provide the publisher with an index or pay for the publisher (by the withholding of royalties) to create an index? If the publisher didn't use Word for the final pre-press software (a surprising number of publishers do), you can get them to send you a text file of the whole book, as it will be published. Keep in mind that the copy editing and proofreading, although it was probably done in Word as well, may not be available to you. the last thing you need is to be reading the book on paper to correct your own copy before creating an index. Once the publisher provides a hard copy (printed) of the final book layout with the page numbers and an electronic copy of the final text, import it into Word, whether or not it's a Word file. The only remaining trick is to make the page numbers in the new Word file the same as those in the printed copy. If the publisher (or you as a self publisher) did the pre-press in Word, the page numbers are already correct and you can simply create the index. But if they send you a text file or a Word file without a style sheet so that the page numbers aren't correct, you need to take a couple hours first and fix them. All you need to do is use the search function to search on the last four or five words from each page of the printed copy, and put in a page break (you can use "Ctrl-Enter" or the menu path "Insert> Page Break") where the printed pages end. Depending on the size of the printed page and the size of your page in Word, you may find that Word is adding its own page breaks BEFORE the page breaks you are adding. There are two easy ways to rectify this issue. You can either use the page formatting menu and increase the size of your Word page or shrink the margins so that all of the text that fits on a printed page fits on the Word page, or you simply choose a smaller smaller font for the entire book. Remember, what you do to the file and how the pages look on screen has nothing to do with how your printed book will look, you're just getting the page numbers in the right places so that the book index you generate will associate the correct page numbers with the correct words.
Professional book indexing software does not a professional book index make, so there's really no point in your working with any indexing software other than Word. It takes study and practice to become a professional indexer, but if you want the proper names and places or technical terms to appear in your index, you can do it quite simply yourself. I had to do my own book indexing for of a couple of McGraw-Hill books I authored, before I got them to do it (without charge) as a minor contract negotiating point. It's the kind of thing you can spend forever on if you aren't careful, so in my opinion, the amateur indexer is better off going light and leaving things out than throwing in the kitchen sink. I also want to point out (picture to the right) that Word in Office 2007 supports "Mark Entry" through the "Reference" menu and also allows you to mark citations for Table of Authorities, which is a very useful function for academic writers who take their dissertation indexing seriously:-)