Can Everton Jones find out how his father stole Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds and, more importantly, where he hid them; before the world and his brother get there first?
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Thursday, 4 September 2014

How to index an e-book

Should you want to provide an index in your book, there are a number of issues you will need to take into account. Indexing is a specialised task and is more complex than it would at first seem.

The purpose of an index is so that the reader can find items referred to in the text. An index in an e-book will need hyperlinks instead of page numbers because there are no page numbers as such in an e-book. However you may well find it easier to begin by creating an index using the tools built into MS Word and then adapt that print index for your e-book. And if, as is most likely, your e-book is a version of an already-completed print book, the print index will already have been done.

This post is about how an index in a print book should be set out. The assumption is that your index will follow UK (Oxford) style. Where relevant, differences with Chicago (US) style, are explained. I also address some issues where things will have to be done differently in an e-book, although this topic will be dealt with more fully in my next three posts.

The entries in an index will usually be nouns, with some sort of modification if necessary, such as by a qualifying adjective or a verb or another noun. The entries will follow the same type treatment as in the main text, and so, for example, will only be capitalised if the word is capitalised in the main text. Other formatting, such as italic, should also match in the index and main text and so on. Usually only the main text is indexed. So material in the preliminary and end matter would not usually be indexed unless it contains information relevant to the subject of the book which is not found elsewhere in the main text.

In general, try to restrict the number of page references after a single term in the index to no more than six. If there are more page references than that, then you should consider using sub-entries, grouping the page references by some more meaningful sub-headings, like this:

habitat loss:
   from development 83–5, 100–7
   from erosion 125–9
   in Asia 117

(colon after the main term if no page numbers follow)

semicolon 72–3
   in prelims 3, 4, 7
   in indexes 234

(no colon after the main term if page numbers follow)

Oxford (UK) style would have no comma after the term indexed and the first page reference, separating the two instead by an en-space (as shown in the examples above: type   in code view in Sigil). An en-space is unavailable on the Kindle, so a normal space will have to suffice in kindle e-books. Chicago (US) style on the other hand would have a comma after the indexed term followed, presumably, by a normal interword space.

Don’t index indiscriminately, but do try to index things you anticipate the reader will want to look up in the book. Ultimately it is a judgement call. Not without reason are there specialist indexers out there. Do your best to make an index which the reader will find useful.

It is generally recommended not to run to more than one level of sub-entries. And indeed the tools in MS Word do not allow for sub-sub-entries. So I am restricting this account to indexes with only two levels of index entries. There are further conventions in Chicago style regarding sub-sub-entries, but I have left them out of this post for the simple reason that they are NOT supported in MS Word.

Cross References in Indexes (following Oxford style):

You might need cross-references in your index. For example to direct the reader to another term in the index which is broadly similar, such as:

Canton, see Guangzhou
farming, see agriculture

note the italic for the word ‘see’, preceeded by a comma

or use ‘see also’ where the reader is directed to another closely related item:

clothing 27, 44–6; see also costume; millinery

note that ‘see also’ is italicised and is separated from the page reference by a semi-colon. If there is a list of cross-references, then separate each from the other by semi-colons.

If the ‘see’ or ‘see also’ is followed by a work title in italics then Roman is often used in print books to mark the distinction:

Plutarch’s Lives, see Parallel Lives; see also biographies; Dryden

A cross-reference to a general area rather than to a specific term is usually entirely in italic:

authors, see under the individual authors

In this case the cross-reference would not be hyperlinked in the e-book.

In no cases should a ‘see’ or ‘see also’ cross-reference direct the reader to another ‘see’ or ‘see also’ entry.

Differences between Oxford and Chicago style for cross-references:

That covers ‘see’ and ‘see also’ cross-references in UK (Oxford) style. Chicago style has different conventions.

In Chicago style, ‘See’ would be capitalised and be preceeded by a full point:

adolescence. See teenagers; youth

Following a subentry, ‘see’ references are enclosed in parentheses and are lowercased in Chicago style:

statistical material, 16, 17
   coding of, for typesetter (see typesetting)

but note that ‘see’ is still italic in both cases.

In the majority of cases, a ‘see’ cross-reference will direct the reader to a main index entry. When it directs the reader to a sub-entry, you can use ‘See under’ to refer to the main heading it appears under:

lace making. See under Bruges

although if clarity is important, an alternative is to direct the reader to the full description of the cross-referenced item thus:

lace making. See Bruges: lace making

See also under’ can be used in an analagous way when a ‘See also’ cross-reference points to a sub-entry.

New Hart’s Rules (the Oxford University Press style guide) is silent about cross-references to sub-entries and I would adopt the Chicago practice if relevant, but follow the Oxford punctuation and capitalisation.

Inverting Index Entries:

Entries might need to be ‘inverted’. So obviously a proper name would be given with the surname first (Shelton, Rod). But sometimes you might want to do this with other items in the index, like:

education, secondary
Winter’s Tale, A

This is a judgement call and will depend on what you consider a reader will choose to look for in the index. Will they search first for ‘education’ or try to find ‘secondary education’ directly? Space is often at a premium in print books but you can let your hair down a bit in an e-book, so you might play safe and include two entries for the same thing (a double entry), one inverted and the other not. This will tax your ingenuity when using the indexing tools in MS Word, but that isn’t a reason for not doing it! (how do this using the tools in MS Word)

Abbreviations in Indexes:

Abbreviations can sometimes be given without further explanation, for example you can assume your reader will know what HIV or NATO stand for. However you may decide to spell out the abbreviation if you think it might not be familiar to your reader:

CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)

(In this case, it is absolutely necessary to spell out the abbreviation, as CBT can stand for something else entirely, and definitely NSFW!!!)

The order of entries in the Index:

An index, obviously, lists the entries in alphabetical order, but this turns out not to be as simple a task as it would at first appear. I am devoting an entire post to alphabetising indexes and bibliographies and will link it here when published. The rules are the same for indexes and bibliographies.

The rules and conventions around alphabetisation are so complex that any computer programme cannot possibly get it right all of the time and you will inevitably have to do some resequencing of the index which MS Word produces.

In certain circumstances, you might judge that a part of your index ought NOT to be in aphabetical order, but to follow some other scheme, such as chronological order or (God forbid) scriptural order!

Whatever the circumstances, you WILL need to understand the alphabetisation system you have chosen and edit your index accordingly.

Index entries ending with a number:

In general, Oxford style would have no comma after the index entry and separates the index entry from the first page reference by an en-space (see above). However, if the index entry ends with a numeral (such as Uranium 235 or B-17), then add a colon at the end of the index entry:

Uranium 235: 56

The Chicago Manual Of Style is silent on this point. But the comma following the indexed term serves the same function:

Uranium 235, 56

Page Breaks:

In a print book, if an index entry is split over a page break, the heading or subheading is repeated at the top of the column with ‘(cont.)’ after it. (Italic within Roman brackets.) This is particularly important when the break falls at the foot of a recto page and the entry continues on a verso.

Styling Indexes (common features):

There are two styles in common use in indexes. Both would use a smaller type size and multiple columns (at least two) and are generally left-justified (i.e. ragged-right). In a print book the page references can be styled in bold or italic (or even both) to represent some special meaning. Often, bold is used to stand for the main or most significant place in the text which the term refers to. Italic can sometimes refer to illustrations. Whatever you decide to do, explain your system to your reader in a headnote at the start of the index. In your e-book index, the page numbers will need to be replaced with hyperlinks, but you can still use this idea and style the text of the hyperlinks differently. The tools in MS Word allow for styling the page references in bold and/or italic (see my next post).

The index in your e-book will need to be a single column, as column breaks are not possible, or at least cannot be placed reliably at the end of pages, since there are no pages to put them at the end of!

A further consequence of this is that unfortunately a continuation heading is not possible in an e-book: the page breaks will vary according to the point size selected by the user.

Set Out Indexes:

The first style in use for indexes is called ‘Set Out’, and I think it is by far the clearest. In this style, the sub-entries begin on a new line and are set in on the left:

   income 12, 14–22
   taxation 56
   wages 45, 67–9

In all styles, the index entries will need to use a hanging indent. Assuming the sub-entry is set in by 2em, then one solution would be to use a 2em hanging indent for the main entries. Then if the main entry spills over onto a further line the spill-over will line up with the sub-entries which follow:

chocolate 5, 25, 30–78; see also
     Belgium; Switzerland; Cadbury
     manufacture 89, 238

Although Chicago says to use a larger hanging indent in set out indexes, which in the following example would be 4em:

chocolate, 5, 25, 30–78. See also
          Belgium; Switzerland; Cadbury
     manufacture, 89, 238

In this case the spill-over line is indented more, making the structure of the index easier to follow. Hart actually says to do this as well, but then the actual index in New Hart’s Rules does not follow his own advice!

Run On Indexes:

The second system is called ‘Run on’, and is, in my opinion, not as clear and poorly suited to an e-book. For reasons of economy, this is by far the most common system used in print books, as it takes up less space. In this style the entries are run on, separated by semicolons and employ a hanging indent (although the ‘extra’ hanging indent discussed above is not relevant to this system):

earnings: income 12, 14–22; taxation 56; wages 45,

References to notes in Indexes:

When referring to a note in a print index, one would use the page number and ‘n.’ (‘nn.’ for two or more notes):

Cats 1 n. 3
Dogs 3 nn. 6, 14, 6 nn. 1–3

Oxford style is to use a thinspace between the page number and ‘n.’ (as shown in the example). Type   in code view in Sigil, but note that the thinspace chapacter is NOT supported on the kindle, even though it is in the supported characters list in the Kindle Publishing Guidelines!

(In an e-book you might instead have ‘chapter 1 n. 8, chapter 2 n.19’ where each entry is a hyperlink, but see my final post on linking the index for detailed suggestions.)

Chicago style would use the following system (no full point and no spaces):

Cats, 1n3
Dogs, 3n6, 3n14, 6nn1–3

And that about covers how an index should be constructed in a print book. You will, as I have said, need to adapt the conventions for e-book, substituting hyperlinks for the page references.

Next Steps: My next post will be on how to use the tools in MS Word to create your print index. If you are making a print edition of your book, it might need one. If you are making an e-book only version then a print index is a good starting point for making the e-book index. A further post will cover how to alphabetise your index and I will finish with a final post on how to link and style your index. After the end matter is complete, you can edit the metadata and then you are ready to test your e-pub e-book and begin converting it to Kindle.

Index to ‘how to …’ posts:

How to ‘unpack’ an epub file to edit the contents and see what’s inside.
How to understand what is inside an epub
How to link the html table of Contents in a Kindle e-book
How to restructure the html table of contents for a Kindle
How to delete the html cover for a Kindle ebook
How to link the cover IMAGE in a Kindle e-book
How to clean up your MS Word file before your get started
How to markup an MS Word file to identify the formats before importing it into an epub
How to create a new blank e-pub using Sigil
How to import your marked-up MS Word file into your ebook using Sigil
How to create and link a CSS stylesheet in an e-book using Sigil
How to replace the markup with CSS styles in your ebook using Sigil
How to style an e-book so it works with the limited CSS styling available to Kindle e-readers
How to understand the syntax of CSS
How to style Small Caps in an e-book
How to split your ebook up into chapters using Sigil
How to sequence your e-book
How to phrase the copyright declarations etc. in an e-book
How to generate the logical table of contents using Sigil
How to understand toc.ncx in an e-book
How to generate the html table of contents in an e-pub
How to style the html table of contents using CSS
How to create an html cover for your epub using Sigil
How to present references and notes in a book
How to use Mark Up to link notes in your e-book
How to present a bibliography in a book
How to use markup to link entries in a bibliography with the notes section
How to index an e-book
How to use the tools in MS Word to create an index
How to alphabetise an index or bibliography
How to adapt the print index in your MS Word file for an e-book using markup
How to adapt cross-references in your print index for e-book and how to use markup to make the links
How to understand content.opf
How to understand and edit the Metadata of an ebook using Sigil
How to understand the manifest in content.opf
How to understand the spine and guide in content.opf
How to test your e-pub using flightCrew in Sigil
How to test your e-pub using epubcheck
How to convert an e-pub to Kindle using kindlegen

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