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About indexing

An index is not:

a table of contents or simply a list of the words which appear most often in a text. A proper index cannot be generated by a computer, but needs to be written by a professional indexer who places the major topics of a book in the right context and who can determine which subjects, persons, etc. really do matter.

An index is: 

a structured list in alphabetical, numerical or chronological order with references to and between relevant subjects, names, concepts and other parts in a document. An index is designed in such away that users can locate and retrieve relevant information in these documents quickly and efficiently.

The definition of document is very broad: it may be a book, a periodical, a website or any other type of source that contains information. My specialisation lies in book indexing in the area of social sciences and humanities.

An indexer reads the text (sometimes even multiple times), identifies the major subjects, concepts, names, etc. and translates these into search terms/keywords, the so-called main headings/entries and sub-headings/entries. The indexer adds cross references (see/see also) where helpful (for example, in the case of synonyms). Whilst writing the index, the indexer always keeps the audience, their way of thinking and possible search behaviour in mind.

Why hiring a professional indexer is worthwhile

By the time you reach the final stage before your book goes to print, you have probably spent many months or even longer carefully considering and revising every word you put down. The time pressure at this final stage is high: your publisher has probably already reserved time at the printer. Save yourself the stress and don’t compromise on the quality of your product at this last moment.

A computer-generated list of keywords will not do your work any justice. Your book deserves the intellectual skills of a human being who can empathise with your readers’ search behaviour and match the most important topics to keywords.

Moreover, you don’t need to worry about complicated style sheets from publishers, supplying lists of keywords yourself, etc. And although it isn’t one of the official tasks of an indexer, why not benefit from this automatic extra round of proof reading?

I would be happy to complete your book with a high quality index!

My approach

The indexing process

Upon receipt of your first or second PDF-proof the indexing process can start. I use a special indexing programme for this.

After having read the introduction and any notes on transliteration, I will start indexing whilst reading the entire text. During this stage I indentify major subjects, names, etc. and create main headings and as many subheadings as possible to avoid too long strings of page references afterwards. Also I create cross-references where necessary.

I will collect questions for you if anything from the text is unclear to me and I will make notes of things I need to double-check myself during the editing phase. Also I will keep an overview of any spelling mistakes, inconsistencies and sometimes even errors in the text. Even though a text has been proofread multiple times, it is not exceptional that an indexer still picks out inconsistencies and mistakes. This is because indexers often need to research persons, events, dates, etc. in external sources whilst indexing.

Once the final page has been read and the headings are all in, I will start editing the index, which can in some cases easily take up to 30-40% of the turnaround time. Major tasks at this point include checking consistency of headings, adding or deleting subheadings, judging if some headings are ‘passing mentions’, are too generic or vague, etc., double-check cross-referencing, and checking spelling and style.

After delivery of the index it can still be modified it with minor changes upon request of the author. At this stage any modification of page references in the index due to in-between repagination of the proof is done as well.

My last job before the index gets printed is to check if it has been set correctly.

Professional rules, standards and house style requirements

There are professional rules, standards and publisher house style requirements which influence the contents, type and size of an index. As a professional indexer I will take these as guiding principles. You as an author may have other expectations of what your index should contain or how it should look like. After mutual discussion between myself as indexer, yourself as author and of course your publisher, we can decide if your special wishes are attainable. If you do have special requirements or particular ideas, I am always open to discuss these with you before your indexing project kicks off.  

Level of detail and reader-friendliness

I think my strength lies in delivering reader-friendly and thorough indexes which highlight a publication’s core subjects and their contexts whilst at the same time keeping an eye for detail. Moreover, my aim is to lead readers in the most possible direct way to the information they are looking for. It can be annoying having to navigate through many different index headings via loads of cross-references in order to finally find what you are looking for.

In my indexes you will therefore find relatively many ‘double entries/postings’ and main headings being broken down into subheadings. Even by excluding ‘passing mentions’ the indexes can get quite elaborate and detailed. I have noticed, that especially in the social sciences and humanities this approach is highly appreciated by many of my customers and their readers. On an average, the size of my indexes ranges between 6% and 10% of a book’s indexable text. Some publishers impose size limitations for indexes, therefore it is important that you inform me beforehand if there is a maximum length.

Client base

My client base consists of renowned international publishers, universities, research institutions and individual authors. A selection of my clients:



  • Brill, the Netherlands
  • Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom
  • Claeys & Casteels Publishing, the Netherlands
  • Edinburgh University Press, United Kingdom
  • Intersentia, Belgium
  • Mohr Siebeck, Germany
  • Oxford University Press, United Kingdom
  • Palgrave Macmillan, United Kingdom
  • Routledge, United Kingdom
  • SDU, the Netherlands
  • Sewalt & Revier, the Netherlands
  • Taylor & Francis, United Kingdom
  • Wolters Kluwer, the Netherlands

Universities & Research Institutions

  • Aga Khan Centre, United Kingdom
  • Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany
  • Ghent University, Belgium
  • Innsbruck University, Austria
  • Leiden University, the Netherlands
  • Sydney University, Australia
  • University of the West of Scotland, United Kingdom
  • Volda University College, Norway
  • Wake Forest University, United States

“I feel confident in outsourcing indexing assignments to Jacqueline. She meets all the conditions to deliver a good index: reliability, accuracy and punctuality”
Henk Revier, VOF Sewalt & Revier

Please see my portfolio for a selection of the books I have indexed for the above clients.

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