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Making an index using Word

WritersServices Self-publishing

Word processors provide facilities to create one or more basic indexes. These are designed primarily to create indexes for theses or business documents but with care can produce a workable index for a book.

Design your index

What is possible?

Have a look at the guidelines – there are some decisions to make before you start.

You can create an index entry:

For an individual word, phrase, abbreviation or symbol.

  • For a topic that spans a range of pages using bookmarks.
  • By referring to another entry using the 'See …' option.
  • By creating multilevel index entries. e.g.. Food – Beans, Bread, Buns.
  • Setting up an index devoted just to names or to places instead of one general index.

The index is a dynamic document and can be remade each time you edit the document.


Before you start

  • First, gather the chapters together into one document as you can select to index all so it will scan the whole document.
  • However, you can set up a concordance and assemble an index by comparing the concordance with each document.
  • Check the advice on designing an index.

Mark the entries

  • Create the index entries.
    Press Shift-Alt-X together (or Index on the Insert menu)
  • Click your mouse back onto the text - this leaves the dialog open.
  • Highlight the word you want in the index.
  • Now click on the main entry box and the word will be transferred in the dialog box.
  • Various other options are pre-selected
    Click Mark All
  • The Mark All button is available only if you select text before opening the dialog box, but not if you typed your own text directly into the dialog box.

Format index entries as you mark them: for example, you can underline book titles.

In a few seconds Word will mark the document with a special field marker {XE (Index Entry)}.

The look of your document will also suddenly change, with lots of dots and special characters appearing – but don’t worry.

Move on and mark all the words by repeating the steps:

  1. Highlight text,
  2. Click in main entry,
  3. Mark All.

Do this until you reach the end of your document. Then close the Mark Index Entry dialog.


  • It is useful to see the field codes to make sure they are entered correctly. But these markers take space and will expand your document. Consequently the page the words appear on changes! To make sure that the document is paginated correctly, you need to hide field codes and hidden text markers. Click the Show/Hide icon on the toolbar.
  • You cannot type the field codes in. You must allow Word to embed the markers for you.
  • To create a sub-entry: specify the main index entry, and then type the sub-entry in the Subentry box.
  • To include more levels, type the sub-entry text followed by a colon (:) and the text of the third-level entry.
  • You can build the index for only part of the document by setting bookmarks. To edit, format, or delete existing index entries, you need to modify the index entry fields in the document.
  • For a cross-reference, enter the index entry you want the user to go to and click Mark.
  • To speed up indexing, you can also use a concordance file to mark index entries.





Building the index

After you've marked all the index entries, you can choose an index design and build the index.

  1. Hide the field codes and give the document a few moments to repaginate itself.
  2. Select the index tab and set any of the options (You can experiment with these and re-build the index to see how they look)
  3. Word then collects the index entries, sorts them, references their page numbers, finds and removes duplicate entries from the same page, and displays the index in the document.
  4. Word marks only the first occurrence of an entry in each paragraph.


Updating an index after making changes

If you change the document, you need to update the index.
Don’t modify the entries in the finished index. You can only edit the text in the main body of the document, not in the index itself.
The table is generated, so you cannot copy and paste it.
You can add formatting characters to the field code after these have been inserted by the software, e.g. { XE "Highlighting text" \b }
  •  \b Applies bold formatting to the entry's page number
  • \i Makes the page number italic
  • \r Bookmark

    Online resource supporting families of children with reading difficulties.  Useful site which explains what can affect children's ability to read and has a helpful page of advice on choosing books for children.

    Inserts as the entry's page number the range of pages marked by the specified bookmark
  • \t "Text" Inserts the text in place of a page number. Enclose the text in quotation marks

A concordance is another way to make an index.

It is particularly useful because you can apply the word-list to a set of documents. A concordance also allows you to use key words to identify the topic.

  • A concordance is particularly useful if you need to index all forms of some text. For example, type 'eat', 'meal', 'feed' in 3 separate cells in the left column. Then type 'Nutrition' in the matching cells in the right column.
  • To speed up the creation of a concordance file, open both the concordance file and the document you want to index. You can click and copy words between them or split your screen to drag text across.

To compile a concordance

1. Click New and create a two-column table. Save the file.
2. Enter the text you want to find in the first column. Press TAB.
3. In the second column, type the index entry text. Then press TAB to move on to the next entry. When you run the concordance, Word will mark the words in the first column and index them according to the text in the second column.
4. To run the concordance, open the document to index.

4.1. On the Insert menu, click Index and Tables, and then click the Index tab.
4.2. Click AutoMark.
4.3. In the File name box, enter the name of the concordance file you want to use.
4.4. Click Open.

Word searches through the document for each exact occurrence of text in the first column of the concordance file, and then it uses the text in the second column as the index entry.

  You can also build a Table of Contents Entry, list of references or authorities in a very similar way. Use the following key codes to insert the field markers.

ALT+SHIFT+O Table of Contents
ALT+SHIFT+I Authorities


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