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© 2009-2010 Ugur Akinci
Here are some tips to help you compile great Indexes for your technical documents:
1) Always use lower case for your Index entries. “password” instead of “Passwords”, or “boat” instead of “Boat”. Lower-case letters are easier to read in an Index than the upper-case letters.
EXCEPTION to the rule: all Proper Nouns should start with a capital letter. “Africa” instead of “africa”, or “Toyota” instead of “toyota”.
2) Always use singular case for your Index entries. “fuse” instead of “fuses”, or “capacitor” instead of “capacitors”.
3) Do not have more than 3 levels of nesting. Human mind starts losing track beyond 3 levels. Easy-to-read Indexes do not have more than 3 levels of indentation.
4) Do not use verbs for Index entries.
If possible, all your entries should be singular nouns.
If, for example, you’d like to point the reader to the page where “adding a network” is explained, do create an index entry “network” UNDER “adding”.
Do the other way around. First create a top level entry “network”. Then under that, as a sub-entry create “adding”.
Why? Because most people do not search for “adding” as an abstract activity in itself but only in its relationship to another concrete object, like “network”. So it’s better practice to anchor the verb “adding” to the noun “network” then other way around.
5) If you use an acronym as an entry, always create a cross reference to its open form and then give the corresponding page number at the open entry.
For example, your entry for MPG should be “MPG, see miles per gallon”. And then: “miles per gallon … 17” (just an example). Otherwise you run the risk of confound your readers by an unexplained acronym whose significance remains a mystery until the reader visits that page and does further research of her own.
If, on the other hand, you explain the acronym’s meaning in the Index, the reader will be saved that research and will develop more trust both in your Index and your document.
May your work take you to the happiness and prosperity you deserve like a well-written Index!