The best, most thorough, index must be created by a human, rather than a computer, as only a human has the cognitive skills to decode the meanings of the words enough to properly place them in an index. A computer can assist the project, however, by accurately locating and alphabetizing the entries. The steps below are the closest we can get to an automated index for you.

Make an Index Using MSWord

When we format a book, we place the author's text file into a page layout program called Adobe InDesign. InDesign can recognize tags that were attached to the file in its source software program, in this case, MSWord. Tagging means you select the text and apply a "tag" to it, which is a set of hidden instructions for InDesign. Once you tag an index entry, MSWord adds a special XE (Index Entry) field. It also shows all formatting marks. Depending on the version of Word you're using, some instructions may be different. How to tag a word in 2007:

  • Highlight a single word or group of words.
  • Click on Reference in the main menu.
  • Highlight Index.
  • Click on the Mark Entry box (up pops a different window). If you have a person's name, type it in last name, first name with initial following.
  • If you would like to cross reference this entry, click the "Cross Reference" button and type the reference you want after See.
  • Click Mark All.
  • Close. Repeat this process for every word you'd like to add to your index.
  • To view your index, place your cursor at the very end of your document. Open the Reference Menu, click Index. Click "Insert Index." This will flow your index onto the page, so you can view and check it.

*TIP: You must search and tag both the capitalized version and the non-capitalized version of the word separately.

*TIP: You can either page through your book and select words as you go, or you can use the "Find" function to locate a word or phrase.

Planning your Index

  • Think about how you want your index to look. How many topic levels will it have? Will it refer the reader to other related topics? Will a simple keyword index suffice, or do you want a more complex index with cross-references to related topics and a well-researched list of equivalent terms?
  • Anticipate the variety of ways by which your readers might look up information. For instance, one reader may search for information on animals by looking under beasts; another may look for wildlife or fauna.
  • Create index entries when the content of your document is fairly stable. If you delete large portions of your text later, you may lose some of your indexing work.
  • Common indexing problems include mixing uppercase and lowercase (cats and Cats) and singular and plural forms (cat and cats). Use a topic list to keep terms consistent.
  • Review your index several times. Look for duplicate entries, weak subject areas, misspellings, and inconsistencies in capitalization and wording; for example, InDesign treats Cheetah, cheetah, and cheetahs as separate entries.
  • It may help to have a list of topics, names and subjects you want to index written out beforehand.