Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading

Q. Hello—I’m wondering if you might provide a little guidance with respect to book indexing. A colleague of mine has been asked by the author to do indexing for a coffee-table physics book to be published by a major publisher. As she has never done this before, and graphic arts is actually her field, I’ve advised her to defer to a professional, as indexing is actually quite a complex art form. Do you agree? I’m hoping to provide her with some expert advice that can back up her stance.

A. You are so right—good indexing is much more than just listing the names of people and places. If your colleague has a knowledge of physics, she might be able to craft a useful index, but otherwise she will probably just end up listing selected words and page numbers. You might suggest that your colleague check out the website of the American Society for Indexing for an idea of what she would be getting into. If she decides to go for it, I recommend chapter 16 of CMOS 17 as a good “how-to” guide.