It wasn’t until well after I’d published my nutrition book in 2016 that I realized an important piece of the Chinese medicine puzzle was missing: an index. I assumed readers with no exposure to or background in Chinese medicine theory would clearly understand my book. It was written, after all, for the general public, I reasoned. It has occurred to me, however, that many of the terms and theoretical premises won’t jive with what most people know (hint: Western medicine). That means I need to add an index.
You Have Options
Not all is lost; an index, while time-consuming to create, can be easily and quickly added to your nonfiction work using MS Word, Adobe InDesign or several other software options. In addition to creating indexes, many of these options (see below) will help you with your writing process. Personally, I’m still a fan of Word; I prefer the wide open, blank page – similar to working on a typewriter (from my childhood school days) – to the more technical-slanted software, like Scrivener. I don’t like breaking up my book into pieces; I prefer to flow from one chapter to the next to maintain the rhythm of the story.
But I digress.
Take Your Time
Nonfiction book indexes provide information on where the word, phrase or concept appear in your book (page numbers, chapter, etc.). This is the time-consuming part; you have to read through your book and choose the words, phrases and concepts that need to be included in the index. Luckily, MS Word is one of those helpful options.
“Microsoft Word comes with a built-in indexing tool that can automatically create an index based on the entries you choose. All you’ll need to do is use the Mark Entry tool to mark each word or phrase you want to add to the index. Terms in your index can point to specific pages in the document or cross-reference to other indexed entries.” Wikihow
And This Word Points to…
Choose key words and phrases but it’s not necessary to include every single example of a topic. And, according to a recent blog post from The Book Designer, you should “only make sub-categories when it’s important and related to the topic of your book or helps break up a large chunk of long page references.” This option would apply to my book since there are various phrases and words that fall into multiple diagnostic categories. Note: make sure the book formatting is maintained throughout the index.
The standard is to begin every index word with a noun. For example, in my recipe section I might find the term ‘roasted garlic’. In the index, it would be listed as “garlic, roasted.” Index words are not capitalized unless they’re proper nouns, e.g., David, Senator, Massachusetts.
Different But Important, Too
Another aspect to book writing (both fiction and nonfiction) is using a glossary. A glossary is a list of defined terms, not always alphabetized. I created an Indigenous tribe and language for one of the main characters in my fiction novel so it was necessary to define and show pronunciation of each word or phrase. A glossary is useful when there are words and phrases likely unfamiliar to the reader and can be included in both fiction and nonfiction works.
A Short List
The following are software options to help you with an index and writing in general:
- Google Docs
- Google Sheets OR Microsoft Excel
- Publisher Rocket
- Evernote OR Ulysses
- Microsoft Word
- Hemingway App
- Bonus: Google Drive OR Dropbox
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