Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading

Q. Our out-of-house indexer has indexed the word “justice” for a book on law and order in the ancient world. However, the word “justice” does not appear on many of the pages he included. Those pages contain discussions of laws, crimes, and punishments, but do not actually use the word “justice.” “Justice” does specifically appear on several pages, which he included. However, for the others, he has really indexed the concept of justice, rather than the word itself. Is this permitted in indexing? This is a book for sixth graders, who might be confused if they look for the word on a page, but can’t find it. I hope I’m clear about the problem.

A. Yes, it is essential for an indexer to index concepts. That’s the difference between a computer-generated concordance to a book and a professionally prepared index. It would be perverse to contend that a discussion of justice must contain the word “justice.” Sixth graders are old enough to understand this idea. I doubt that they will be confused if the page they are sent to by the index contains information about laws, crimes, and punishments, but if they are briefly confused, the experience will help them begin to learn what “justice” means, as well as something important about using indexes.