Archive for December, 2010

Long Strings of Reference Locators in an Index

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

As a follow-up to my last posting, Guidelines for Editing Indexes, I wanted to explore in detail one of the guidelines.  A main entry followed by a long string of undifferentiated reference locators or page numbers at the main heading level should be broken down into subheadings.  A common rule of thumb is that more than five or six reference locators should be differentiated by the addition of subheadings.

Leaving a long string of page numbers will force the reader to plow through many pages before finding the desired information.  There might be 10 or 15 page numbers listed, a daunting task for the reader to wade through in search of the one elusive piece of information.  Exactly what constitutes a “long” string of page numbers is often defined in a publisher’s style guide or by the space allowed for the index.  The reason for adding subheadings is simple.  Subheadings subdivide and characterize the  information and make it easy to find the information in question.

For more information, see Chapter Nine, “Editing the Index,” of Nancy C. Mulvancy’s Indexing Books, Second Edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005, pp.219-241.  For more information about the services provided by the author of this blog, see the Stellar Searches LLC website,