Indexing with Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word assists you in creating an embedded index. While Microsoft Word makes it easy to enter individual index entries, much effort is still required to create page ranges and to edit the final index.

Entering Index Headings

Microsoft Word enables you to automatically generate an index using special index fields. You can enter these index fields using the Mark Index Entry dialog. In the dialog you simply enter the main heading and a subheading, if required. The dialog is setup for a two level index (main headings and subheadings). If you wish to create a third level (sub-subheading), simply enter a colon following the subheading and then type the sub-subheading text.

For convenience, you can highlight a word or phrase in the document before opening the Mark Index Entry dialog and the selected word or phrase will appear automatically as the index heading. Be aware that indexing is about “dissecting” a document into its component topics, not simply picking out keywords from the text.

You can also enter “See also” and “See” cross-references using the Mark Index Entry dialog. Microsoft Word automatically puts the “See also” and “See” text into italics. Be sure to put semicolons in between items in the cross-reference list for correct punctuation.

The trickiest part of indexing in Microsoft Word is creating page ranges. You first create a bookmark for the selected range. Then, when you create the index entry, you simply select the appropriate bookmark. While straight forward in principle, this two step process of creating a bookmark and then an index entry can become a little tedious.

To view the resulting index you first need to setup an index using the “Insert->Index and Tables” menu item. It’s a good idea to generate the index as you go along to see how the index is developing. To regenerate the index, click on the index and press F9.

A Word for the Wise

Microsoft Word gives you the ability to automatically create index entries from a list of keywords, or what Microsoft Word calls a “concordance file.” Using this technique can result in many useless entries while missing important topics. Remember that creating an index requires human thought.

Editing and Final Preparation

While Microsoft has made the job of writing an index fairly convenient, the job of editing the index takes much more effort. To revise the index you’ll first need to generate it and note any changes you wish to make. You should then go back and change the original index fields themselves. If you only change the generated index, your changes will disappear the next time you generate the index — defeating much of the value of creating an embedded index in the first place. To find the index fields, search for “fields” using the "Special" button in the Search and Replace dialog. Be sure that you have made the fields visible first.

Once you have generated the final version of the index, you’ll need to make any corrections to bad breaks or alphabetization directly in the generated index. It’s a good idea to enter “continued” lines, as well, when a list of subheadings runs over to a subsequent column.

Fred Brown
Allegro Technical Indexing
(613) 728-9373

December, 2001
Allegro Time!

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