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Resource | Public | Article | Terminology | Comments: 0 | 5 June 2022 | Modified 15 June 2024

Parts of an Index: The Basics

If you are new to creating indexes or consulting them as a reader, you may not be familiar with all the terminology we use to describe the parts of an index. This article, and the excerpted index image above, gives a brief overview of the most common elements. The circled items are described in detail below.

“A” is a group letter.

Other group letters found on this page include B, C, D, E, F, and G. Group letters define the alphabetical sections of the index. However, not all indexes include group letters. Instead, some may use two to three blank lines to separate the alphabetical sections.

“beechnuts” is a heading.

Headings, also known as main headings or main entries, are concepts, ideas, or terms that are discussed in the text. Typically they are not capitalized.

“bill” is a heading with two subheadings.

Subheadings are sometimes called subentries. In this case, the two subheadings under “bill” show different aspects of woodpeckers’ bills: adaptations of bills and strength of bills.

“56” is a locator.

This locator, or page number, tells you to go to page 56 to learn more about ant-bears.

“15–17” is a locator range.

A locator range, or page number range, lets you know where to find the information within the text. In this case, the feeding behavior of downy woodpeckers is discussed on pages 15-17. Usually, the discussion in a locator range is continuous.

Cross-references point you to other index headings.

See cross-references indicates there is an alternative term for a particular heading. For example, in the excerpt above, “See California woodpecker” tells you that “El Carpintero” has another name, “California woodpecker,” and is referenced by that name within the text. The phrase See also” leads you to additional, relevant information. In the example above, “evolution” information can also be found by consulting pages within the text that refer to “body adaptations.”

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Michelle Guiliano | Line by Line Indexing

Indexer from Etna, New Hampshire | USA
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