Indexes Q&A

What do “run-in” and “indented” mean when it comes to index formats?

In short the two terms refer to how the index is set out on the page.

The difference between these two styles of index is the placement of the sub-headings. In an indented index such as the first example above, each of the subheadings is on it’s own line. This is often the easiest to use style of index, however it also uses the most space.

An indented-style index.

In a run-in style of index such as the second example, the subheadings are all on one line, wrapping around as needed. Depending on the wording of the subheadings, using this style with an index can allow for more lines of index. A run-in style index can sometimes be the best choice when limited space is a consideration.

There are also a number of variations of these two styles as well, including: run-in from the main heading, where the subheadings start on the same line as the main heading, or a combined style where the main heading and subheadings are in an indented style, but any sub-subheadings are formatted to be run-in.

A run-in style index.

Often these considerations are laid out in the publishers style guide.

Alphabetization. Such a simple thing, and yet…

The alphabet is the alphabet, is it not. “B” follows “A” and “C” follows “B” and so on down the line. However, when it comes to indexing, things are always just a little more complex than they seem. Alphabetization becomes a bit trickier because of things like spaces, dashes and other forms of punctuation.

Word by word and letter by letter sorting examples.

The biggest difference between the two types of alphabetization is that in letter by letter sorting the space is ignored while in word by word sorting the space ‘resets’ the alphabetization. Thus in the word by word column you get New Jersey, New South Wales and New York grouped together, while in the letter by letter column those same entries are interspersed throughout the rest of the entries as though the spaces weren’t included.

Payment rates…

Per-page vs. hourly. Both ways of determining a fee are used by different indexers. However, the most common one I’ve seen is per-page, or more specifically, per indexable page. Each has its advantages. Hourly rates are a common way of working in many fields, but do end up leaving the final bill unknown until the job is done.

Per indexable page on the other hand gives a known flat rate from the beginning of the job.

Some indexers do a combination of both types of billing, with a per-page rate for the initial job of indexing and then an hourly rate for editing the index afterwards.

What counts as an indexable page? Any page with content that could end up in the index – which varies from book to book and publisher to publisher. Generally though, front and back matter are excluded from the index.

Names, Names, Names, why aren’t all the names in the index?

The short answer is because current indexing best practices backed up by the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition) are to not include names that are only present in citation form such as parenthetical citations or in footnotes that contain no additional information.

By default, this is how I handle names in the indexes I do. However, should you want all the names, parenthetical citations included, that can be done too.

Contact me at for more information. I’m looking forward to working with you.

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