An index is a systematic guide to significant items or concepts mentioned or discussed in a work or group of works; the items and concepts are represented by a series of entries arranged in a known or searchable order, with a locator, which is an indication of the place(s) in the work(s) where reference to each item or concept may be found.
A simple entry is composed of an identifier, which is the heading, and a locator—the page or section number(s) where reference to the item may be found:
Each item is listed according to the key word, so inversion of phrases is often necessary, with a comma separating the two elements of the inversion. The key word should be the one that the reader is likely to look up in order to find the information required. The full heading is followed by a comma. The page numbers are given without p. or pp., and inclusive numbers should be presented in accordance with the rules enunciated in 5.24 Comparative and inclusive numbers, e.g. 47–48, 10–16, 213–18, 1653–1703. Avoid the use of f., ff. and et seq. in place of numerals.
A complex entry is composed of a main entry (with a main heading) and one or more subentries (subheadings), each with a locator. The complex entry may be presented in run-in or indent format:
|Maritimes, English in, |
21, 32, 39; French in,
80; surveys in, 119
English in, 21, 32, 39
French in, 80
surveys in, 119
The two formats reflect the same inverted word order, a comma follows the heading in each case, and the second and subsequent lines of the entry are indented. In the run-in format, however, the entry is presented in paragraph style, each subentry being followed by a semicolon. In the indent format the presentation is columnar: the main entry and each subentry stand on a separate line, so semicolons are not required. In neither case does a period close the entry.
The advantage of the run-in format is that it saves space and can provide a seminarrative, chronological outline of events in a biographical or historical context, as shown in the following listing for a Canadian ship that was engaged in action in World War II:
The advantage of the indent format is that it is more legible and makes the relationships between items more readily apparent to the reader. Use it when such relationships are to be highlighted, as in the case of scientific indexes:
The example, taken from the field of veterinary medicine, illustrates the use of sub-subentries. In such circumstances a columnar presentation is essential.
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