Ever since studying indexing as a graduate student, I’ve been convinced of the value a well-designed index adds to a nonfiction book. As a librarian, I used indexes to help researchers quickly and easily find the information they needed.
An index is more than a concordance, which simply lists all the words in a book. An index organizes all the terms and topics covered by a book and provides the reference to each entry. It brings together related ideas and points readers to information they may have missed.
My appreciation of indexing was renewed recently when reading April Michelle Davis’s A Guide for the Freelance Indexer (Editorial Freelance Association, 2012). In this concise publication Davis explains the importance of an index and offers tips for those new to this analytical work.
Indexing is one of the last steps in the process of preparing a book for publication and can be done by the author or by a professional indexer. Today’s indexers may use sophisticated software or rely on the eponymous three-by-five cards to record entries. Either way, a carefully constructed index is an aid to those seeking answers. Those who create indexes deserve our thanks.