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19 Indexing

19.3 Alphabetical order

19.3.1 Systems of alphabetization

The two systems of alphabetizing headings are word by word and letter by letter, with minor variations in each. The International and British Standard (BS ISO 999: 1996) advocates word-by-word indexing, which is the system usually employed in general indexes in Britain. Letter-by-letter indexing is preferred in British encyclopedias, atlases, gazetteers, and some dictionaries, and is more common in the US.

The word-by-word system alphabetizes compound terms (those that consist of more than one word or element) up to the first word space and then begins again, so separated words precede closed compounds (e.g. high water comes before highball). Hyphens are treated as spaces, and the two parts of a hyphenated compound are treated as separate words, except where the first element is not a word in its own right (e.g. de-emphasis, iso-osmotic, proto-language).

In the letter-by-letter system alphabetization proceeds across spaces, with separated (and also hyphenated) words being treated as one word.

In both systems the alphabetization ignores apostrophes, accents and diacritics. Parenthetical descriptions are also ignored: high (light headed) is treated as a simple heading (i.e. as high alone would be). Alphabetization continues until a comma indicates inverted order: for instance, High, J. is treated as High for alphabetization, although if there were several instances of High, the form High, J. would come after High alone and also after High, B. Bath, order of the would come before Bath bun and Bath chair.

Where headings are identical, indexing software will order terms in strict alphabetical order. This is preferred to some systems that order entries according to what they are, such as people first, then subjects, concepts, objects, places, and titles of works.

Thus in the example below High, J. comes first, as the name of a person.

These are time consuming because they require manual intervention on the indexer’s part and it can be argued that many index users will not be aware of these conventions.

The example below demonstrates alphabetization in the word-by-word and letter-by-letter systems:

Word by word

Letter by letter

High, J.

High, J.

high (light-headed)

high (light-headed)

high chair

highball

high-fliers

highbrow

high heels

high chair

High-Smith, P.

Highclere Castle

high water

high-fliers

High Water (play)

high heels

highball

highlights

highbrow

Highsmith, A.

Highclere Castle

High-Smith, P.

highlights

high water

Highsmith, A.

High Water (play)

highways

highways

In both systems, letter groups are treated as one word if—such as NATO and NASA— they are pronounced as such. Otherwise, the word-by-word system lists all sets of letters before any full word, ignoring any full points:

Word by word

Letter by letter

I/O

I/O

IOU

iodine

IPA

IOU

i.p.i.

Iowa

IPM

IPA

i.p.s

IP address

IP address

Ipanema

Ipanema

i.p.i.

iodine

IPM

Iowa

i.p.s.

Definite and indefinite articles at the beginning of entries are transposed in both systems:

Midsummer Night’s Dream, A
Vicar of Wakefield, The

In works written in English, foreign words are conventionally alphabetized by ignoring accents and diacritics, so for example ö and ø are treated as o. Some information on alphabetization in languages other than English is given in Chapter 12.

19.3.2 Names

Personal names are generally given in inverted form to bring the significant element (the surname) forward: so Meynell, Alice rather than Alice Meynell.

Where people bear the same surname, initials are conventionally listed before full names; a name with a title that is otherwise identical with one without should follow it:

Meynell, A.
Meynell, Dr A.
Meynell, Alice
Meynell, F.
Meynell, Sir F.
Meynell, W.
Meynell, W. G.

List names prefixed with Mc, Mac, or Mc as if they were spelled Mac:

McCullers
MacFarlane
McFingal
McNamee

Personal names given only by surname in the text require a fuller form in the index, even if mentioned only in passing: Shepard’s illustrations is therefore expanded to the heading Shepard, E. H. Bare surnames should be avoided wherever possible: particularly for specialist subjects an author should anticipate inserting missing names in an index generated by an indexer, or checking for accuracy those the indexer supplies.

Personal names in a single numbered (usually chronological) sequence should be recorded in that sequence in spite of any surnames or other additions. Beware the omission of a number, especially of I; if others in the sequence appear duly numbered, restore the number when listing. Hence Frederick Barbarossa should become Frederick I Barbarossa and precede Frederick II. Where appropriate—especially for the period before c.1300—index people by their given names, with their titles, offices, etc. provided with suitable cross-references. Note again that descriptions in parentheses are disregarded for the purposes of alphabetization:

Henry
Henry (of France), archbishop of Reims
Henry, chaplain
Henry I, count of Champagne
Henry (the Lion), duke of Saxony
Henry, earl of Warwick
Henry II, emperor and king of Germany
Henry IV, emperor and king of Germany
Henry I, king of England
Henry II, king of England
Henry, king of England, the young king
Henry, scribe of Bury St Edmunds
Henry, son of John
Henry de Beaumont, bishop of Bayeux
Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester
Henry Blund
Henry of Essex
Henry the Little
Henry de Mowbray
Henry Fitz Robert
Treat St as if it were spelled Saint, for both personal and place names. In alphabetical arrangement, saints considered in their own right as historical figures are indexed under their names, the abbreviation St being postponed:
Augustine, St, bishop of Hippo
Margaret, St, queen of Scotland
Rumwald, St, of Kings Sutton

When a place or a church is named after a saint, or the saint’s name complete with prefix is used as a surname, alphabetize it under the word Saint as if spelled out, not under St. Thus for example St Andrews, Fife, St Peter’s, Rome, and St John, Olivier are all treated as if they were written Saint —:

Saint, J. B.
St Andrews, Fife
St Benet’s Hall
St James Infirmary
St John-Smythe, Q,
Saint-Julien
St Just-in-Roseland

When the saint’s name is in a foreign language, alphabetize its abbreviation under the full form in that language: thus Ste-Foy is alphabetized as Sainte-Foy.

Foreign names are treated in the form familiar to the reader, so there is a comma in Bartók, Béla even though in Hungarian the surname comes first. Some information on alphabetizing non-English names is given at 6.1.8 and 6.1.9.

Alphabetize natural geographical features according to whether the descriptive component forms part of the name:

Graian Alps
Grampians, the
Granby, Lake
Granby River
Gran Canaria
Grand, North Fork
Grand, South Fork
Grand Bérard, Mont
Grand Canyon
Grand Rapids
Grand Ruine, La
Grand Teton
Always retain the component if it is part of the official name:
Cape Canaveral
Cape Cod
Cape of Good Hope
Cape Horn

Where confusion may result—in atlases, for example—cross references or multiple entries are common.

19.3.3 Scientific terms

If the first character or characters in a chemical compound is a prefix or numeral, such as O-, s-, cis-, it is ignored for alphabetizing but taken into account in ordering a group of similar entries. For example, ‘2,3-dihydroxybenzene’, ‘2,4-dihydroxybenzene’, and ‘cis-1,2-dimethyl cyclohexane’ would all be found under D, and the abbreviation ‘(Z,Z)-7,11-HDDA’, expanded as ‘cis-7,cis-11-hexadecadien-1-yl acetate’, would be alphabetized under H. In chemical notation disregard subscript numerals except when the formulas are otherwise the same:

vitamin B1
vitamin B2
vitamin B6
vitamin B12

Greek letters prefixing chemical terms, star names, etc. are customarily spelled out (and any hyphen dropped): for example, α Centauri, α chain, and α-iron are alphabetized as Alpha Centauri, alpha (α) chain, and alpha iron. However, Greek letters beginning the name of a chemical compound are ignored in alphabetization: for example, ‘α-oxo carbenes’ is spelled thus but alphabetized under O for oxo.

19.3.4 Symbols and numerals

There are two systems for alphabetizing symbols and numerals: the International and British Standard advises listing them before the alphabetical sequence, but they are also commonly arranged as if spelled out, alphabetizing ‘=’ as equals, ‘£’ as pounds, ‘→’ as implies, ‘&’ as ampersand, ‘1st’ as first, and ‘7’ as seven. An ampersand within an entry is best treated either as if spelled out as and or ignored.

Before the alphabetical sequence

As if spelled out

1st Cavalry

1st Cavalry

2/4 time

42nd Street

3i plc

3i plc

42nd Street

2/4 time

Where the names of symbols may be problematic, it may be helpful to give an umbrella heading for symbols (for example rules of inference, linguistic symbols, coding notation) in addition to alphabetical listings. Whichever system is followed, maintain consistency throughout.

19.3.5 Subentries

Arrangement of subentries should normally be alphabetical by key words (but see 19.4), ignoring leading prepositions, conjunctions, and articles in alphabetical ordering. Ensure that subentries are worded so that they are unambiguous and ‘read’ from or to the heading in a consistent pattern. Arrange subentries beneath related or similar headings in parallel. Cross-references from a main heading with subentries may either follow the locators for the main entry:

monasticism 20–3, 69, 131, 158, 202; see also ascetism; religious orders
 cathedrals 112
 churches 206
 and mission 89, 90, 94, 134
 reform 112–14
 in Spain 287

or be given as the final subentry:

monasticism 20–3, 69, 131, 158, 202
 cathedrals 112
 churches 206
 and mission 89, 90, 94,134
 reform 112–14
 in Spain 287
see also ascetism; religious orders

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Preface Editorial team Proofreading marks Glossary of printing and publishing terms