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Indexing Information

About Indexes

An index is a list of terms, usually alphabetized, that helps readers find specific information in the text. The index is an essential key to the knowledge contained in the book (or journal, website, etc.). Through multiple access points (main headings, subheading, and cross-references), readers are able to search and find names, events, ideas, important concepts, etc. easily. Whether you are a student or professor doing research or a casual reader just trying to find that one part you can’t quite recall where, an index is an essential tool to enhance your reading experience. Some of the types of books that need indexes are scholarly books, textbooks, cookbooks, history books, political science, etc. Almost all nonfiction books require, if not will greatly benefit from, a good index.

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Computers and Indexing

As advanced as computers are becoming, they can really only create concordances, not indexes. An index is different from a simple concordance which is a list of each occurrence of certain keywords. An indexer will analyze the text to find connections between concepts. This complex analysis not only identifies related ideas, but can synthesize concepts in a way that computers (including AI) cannot. Current AI is a large language model, which cannot understand the required subtleties and nuances a human can when dealing with texts. Sometimes indexers need to pull out topics that are not spelled out in the text, which is something that AI cannot do at this time. 

However, indexers do utilize dedicated indexing software such as Sky Index Professional, which aids in the constructing, sorting, editing, and formatting of indexes. This type of software is created for indexers so they can focus on analyzing the text and creating a high-quality index.

All Hands In

Authors and Indexes

Authors are certainly able to index their own books; however, it is usually recommended to hire a professional indexer. Often authors are too close to the material to be able to step back and look at the text from the point of view of a reader. Authors are also usually quite exhausted with the entire process of publishing a book where hiring an indexer is a much-needed relief. Lastly, there are many methods and standards that a professional indexer will have expertise in which may become overwhelming to an author who is ready for the project to be completed.

However, it is helpful for the author and indexer to have some communication for queries or clarification when needed. This can also be done by the editor/publisher, but it is good to have the author if available.

Advice for Editors and Authors from the American Society for Indexing

Publishers and Authors

Editors

Working with Freelance Indexers

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