Creating a New Index Entry

The quickest way to mark an index entry is to select the text you want to appear in your index and press Alt+Shift+X. Alternatively, you can choose Insert, Reference, Index and Tables; click the Index tab; and click Mark Entry. Either way, the Mark Index Entry dialog box opens (see Figure 21.1). The text you've selected appears in the Main Entry text box. In some cases, that text serves perfectly well as your index entry.

Figure 21.1. You can control all elements of your index entries through the Mark Index Entry dialog box.



If you plan to create an index entry that doesn't use any of the words in the surrounding text, don't select any text before pressing Alt+Shift+X. The Mark Index Entry dialog box appears with no text already present in the Main Entry or Subentry text boxes.

Although it's convenient to display the Mark Index Entry dialog box with text already present, many professional indexers find it quicker to type the entry they want than it is to edit the text Word inserts automatically.

If you're satisfied with your entry, click Mark. Word inserts an { XE } field code in your document that contains the text of your entry. Because the field code is hidden text, you don't see it unless you display hidden text by clicking the Show/Hide Paragraph Marks button on the Standard toolbar.

In many cases, you'll want to modify the main entry. For example, you'll often find that the text in your document is not quite the same as the text you're using for index entries about the same subject elsewhere in the document. To make sure that readers find all references to the same subject, you need to make the index entries consistent. Even when this is not an issue, you'll often need to edit your index entries to make them more concise and precise.

You can make these edits directly, in the Main Entry text box. Because the entry appears highlighted when the text box opens, you can replace it by simply starting to type your new entry. Or if you only want to edit the entry slightly, click in the box and start editing text.


If you select text within your document that includes symbols, such as copyright marks, these will be included in your index entry unless you manually edit them out.

You can also select a picture and create an index entry for it, but you will have to specify text for the entry?Word will not insert a picture in an index.

After you mark the index entry, the dialog box remains open. If you want, you can create a second entry in the same location. This is called double-posting, and it reflects the fact that different readers will look in different places in your index for the same information. In professional indexing, double-posting is widespread, and even triple-posting?three different entries for the same location in the document?can be common.

Whether you double-post or triple-post, the Mark Index Entry dialog box stays open, assuming you'll want to create another entry. To create another entry elsewhere in the document, click the document, select the text you want to index, and then click again in the Mark Index Entry dialog box. The text you've selected now appears in the Main Entry text box.

You can move throughout the document this way, using Word's navigation tools, creating entries as you go. When you're finished, click Close, and the Mark Index Entry dialog box closes.

Ideas for Improving Your Index Entries

Often, simply copying text from your document doesn't give you an index entry that's as useful as it could be. Here are some ideas you can use to build better index entries:

  • Switch last and first names so that, for example, your main entry reads "Gerstner, Lou" rather than "Lou Gerstner."

  • Spell out and explain abbreviations using the most familiar version first so that, for example, references to "PCI boards" appear as "PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) boards."

    Consider having your index "double-post" acronyms like these so that a second entry in the index would say "Peripheral Component Interconnect, see PCI." To learn how to create index entries that use syntax like this, see "Creating Cross-Referenced 'See' Index Entries," later in this chapter.

  • Change word forms for consistency or simplicity so that your entry reads "law" rather than "legalities." Avoid multiple entries that might confuse the reader, such as separate entries for "installing," "installations," and "install procedures."

  • Make sure your index entries are clear and concise. Avoid vagueness, and avoid words like "understanding" or "using" that are implied with every entry.

  • Avoid adjectives, especially at the beginning of index entries. Readers are much less likely to look up an entry such as "multiple tables" than they are to look up "tables" and find "multiple" as a subentry beneath it.

  • Make sure your index reflects the level of your audience, with simpler entries for audiences new to the subject matter, and more complex entries for readers who already have a substantial base of knowledge to draw on.


You can edit field codes after you insert them. To do so, display hidden text by choosing Tools, Options, View, and checking the Hidden Text check box. Next, insert your cursor directly in an { XE } field code; then, using any of Word's text entry or editing features, including cut, copy, and paste.

Creating Index Codes Manually

When you use the Mark Index Entry dialog box, you are inserting an { XE } field in your document. If you are planning to do quite a bit of indexing, you might want to dispense with the dialog box altogether and create a macro that inserts an { XE } field in your document and positions your insertion point at the appropriate location within it.

To create such a macro, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure that the Show/Hide Paragraph Marks icon on the Standard toolbar (next to the Zoom drop-down box) is toggled on; if it isn't, click it. ({ XE } field codes are invisible unless you show them, and this is usually the easiest way to do so.)

  2. Choose Tools, Macro, Record New Macro.

  3. In the Record Macro dialog box (see Figure 21.2), assign the macro a name, such as IndexEntry.

    Figure 21.2. Preparing to record a macro named IndexEntry.


  4. Click Keyboard, choose a keyboard shortcut for the macro, such as Alt+X, and click Assign.

  5. Click Close. The Macro Recorder begins working.

  6. Press Ctrl+F9 to insert field brackets.

  7. Type the following between the field brackets:

    XE "" 
  8. Press the left-arrow key once to position the insertion point between the field brackets.

  9. Click the Stop Recording button on the Stop Recording toolbar.

Now, every time you need to enter an index entry, you can simply press Alt+X and type the entry between the quotation marks.

For more about entering index entries directly in field codes, see "Creating Subentries," p. 721.

For more information on recording macros, see Chapter 32, "Recording and Running Visual Basic Macros," p. 1069.

If you plan to create many index entries and you prefer to use the Mark Index Entry dialog box rather than entering the entries directly into field codes, it may be worth your time to create a toolbar button that displays the Mark Index Entry dialog box. Drag Mark Index Entry (under Insert) from the Commands tab of the Customize dialog box to your favorite toolbar.


Adding a toolbar button for Mark Index Entry actually causes a new toolbar button to appear, containing the words Mark Index Entry. If the toolbar button is too wide for you, right-click it while the Customize dialog box is displayed, click the Name command, and edit the name. (You might shorten it to XE, the name of the field code it inserts.) When you're finished, close the Customize dialog box.

For more information on customizing toolbars, see "Customizing Toolbars and Menus," p. 1023.

Formatting Index Entries

You can apply boldface, italic, or underlining to any index text you enter in the Mark Index Entry dialog box. Simply select and format all or part of the text. This enables you to create index entries for book titles that require italics. It also helps you call attention to special aspects of an entry, as in the following example:

Harris, Katherine, quoted, 307

Within the Mark Index Entry dialog box, you can select text and press Ctrl+B to boldface it, Ctrl+I to italicize it, or Ctrl+U to underline it. This saves you the trouble of editing or formatting field codes in your document.

Although these formats are probably the most common in indexes, others?such as superscript and subscript?can be applied if needed just as easily with their usual keyboard shortcuts?for example, Ctrl+PlusSign for subscript, and Ctrl+Shift+PlusSign for superscript.

For a list of keyboard shortcuts for formatting text, see Table 4.1, "Toolbar Buttons and Keyboard Shortcuts for Font Formatting," p. 112.

You might also set aside boldface to call special attention to exceptionally detailed discussions of a topic.

In addition to being able to format a specific index entry as boldface or italic, many indexers prefer to call attention to some entries by boldfacing or italicizing the page numbers associated with the entry. For example, it's common to italicize page numbers associated with entries that refer to photos rather than body text.

Formatting the text of an index entry doesn't affect the formatting of the page number. If you want to add formatting to a page number, check the Bold or Italic check box in the Mark Index Entry dialog box.

Marking Multiple Entries at Once

If you want, you can tell Word to mark all references to specific text. Follow these steps:

  1. Select the text you want to index. (You can mark multiple entries only if you select text before you open the Mark Index Entry dialog box.)

  2. Press Alt+Shift+X; the Mark Index Entry dialog box opens.

  3. Because you want this index entry to be applicable to every relevant reference throughout your document, edit the Main Entry box to reflect the wording that will best apply to all of these references.

  4. Click Mark All. Word then marks all locations in your document where it finds the exact text you originally selected (not the edited version in the Mark Entry box).

Although this procedure marks every instance of a specific word or phrase, the "Automating Indexing with Index AutoMark Files" section of this chapter shows how to mark every instance of many different words or phrases at the same time.


So that you can see the index entries you're placing in your document, Word displays hidden text after you enter your first index entry?not just field codes but also other document text you may really want to stay hidden! When you're finished marking index entries, you need to rehide this hidden text manually, by clicking the Show/Hide Paragraph Marks button on the Standard toolbar. This text must be hidden before you compile either an index or a table of contents because, if you don't, your page numbering is likely to be incorrect.

The Show/Hide Paragraph Marks button also displays other types of hidden text. If you find this annoying, an alternative is to choose Tools, Options; display the View tab; clear the All check box; and check the Hidden Text check box. Now, hidden text is displayed, but other elements?such as paragraph marks and dots corresponding to spaces between words?remain hidden.

Creating Subentries

Often, it's not enough to create an index entry. You might also want a subentry that gives your readers a better sense of what they'll find. Subentries are typically used when you expect to make several references to an item in your index, and each reference covers significantly different points, as in the following index excerpts:

Brinkley, J.R.
    goat gland prostate surgery, 24
    medical license suspended, 32
    XER radio station, 27
Bryan, William Jennings
    Cross of Gold speech, 106
    Scopes trial prosecuting attorney, 148
    Spokesman for Florida real estate, 127

To create an index entry that contains a subentry, either select text to be indexed or click where you want the index entry to be placed; then click Alt+Shift+X to display the Mark Index Entry dialog box again. Enter or edit your main entry. Be careful to be consistent about the text you specify for entries you will use more than once. Then, enter text in the Subentry text box as well and click Mark.


Consistency is crucial in indexing. If you aren't careful about this, your final index will contain references to the same topic scattered under many separate headings?making it virtually impossible for readers to find all the references they're looking for, and misleading readers into thinking that they've already found all references when they've found only some of them.


It's sometimes quicker to enter a subentry in the Main Entry box. To do this, type the main entry followed by a colon. Type the subentry in the same text box. Don't add a space between the colon and the subentry unless you want Word to use the space when it alphabetizes your subentries (placing subentries that begin with a space before those that don't).

Including the entry and subentry on the same line is especially convenient when you are using the same index entry for several different blocks of text because you can copy the entry into the Clipboard and paste it into the Main Entry text box for each entry you want to create.

If you prefer to work with { XE } fields directly, you can also copy an entire { XE } field and paste it anywhere you need the same index entry.


If the text of your index entry contains a colon or quotation marks, Word inserts a \before the character in the field to avoid confusion with subentries, which also use colons.

Creating Multilevel Subentries

In some respects, building an index isn't much different from creating an outline: You might want more than two levels of index entries. Occasionally, you'll find that an index entry fits most naturally as a subentry to another subentry. Here's an example:

Procter & Gamble
        Peanut Butter, 47
        Soap, 113-121
                Camay brand, 116
                Ivory brand, 113-117
                        Repackaging, 114
                Oil of Olay brand, 118
                Safeguard brand, 120
                Zest brand, 121

To create a multilevel subentry, press Alt+Shift+X to display the Mark Index Entry dialog box. In the Main Entry text box, enter each level of entry and the subentry, all separated by colons. Don't leave space between levels. For example:

Procter & Gamble:Soap:Ivory brand:Repackaging

Word supports up to seven levels of index entries, though it's unlikely you'll ever need more than three or four.

Creating Cross-Referenced "See" Index Entries

By default, Word includes a page number along with each index entry: the page number where it finds the { XE } field when it compiles the index. This is how Word behaves when the Current Page option button is selected in the Mark Index Entry dialog box. Sometimes, however, you don't want a page reference. Instead, you want to refer people to a different index entry, as in the following examples:

AMEX, See American Stock Exchange

Family and Medical Leave Act, See also Parental leave

To create a cross-reference in your index, set up the rest of the entry as you normally would; then click the Cross-Reference option button and enter the cross-reference text you want to include, next to the word "See."


Because page numbers aren't displayed for cross-references, it doesn't matter where you add them. You can create cross-references hundreds of pages from the text you are indexing or referencing. This is helpful if you think of something you want to cross-reference that isn't related to the part of the text you are currently working on?or that appears in a separate chapter file you may not have access to yet.

You don't have to use the word "See," which Word provides as a suggestion. You can edit or replace it if you prefer a different way of referring to other index entries.

These cross-references are unrelated to the automated cross-references you can place throughout your document via the Insert, Cross-Reference dialog box covered in Chapter 22, "Using Footnotes, Bookmarks, and Cross-References."


Two types of references are used within most professional indexes, and they are easy to confuse.

"See" references should be used to lead the reader to a reference when the topic is indexed under another main entry. For example, if you have chosen to index all the vocalists mentioned in a document under "Singers" and not under "Vocalists," you might include "Vocalists, See Singers" to redirect readers if they look up "Vocalists." A "see" reference is most commonly used for acronyms and synonyms.

The other type of reference, a "See also" reference, is used to direct readers to related subject matter. So along with the subentries for singers under "Singers," you might also include a subentry "See also choruses."

Setting Page Numbers for Multiple-Page Index Entries

Sometimes you want to create an index entry for a discussion that stretches across two or more pages. Word makes this easy: first you create a bookmark corresponding to the block of text you want to index; then you specify the bookmark as part of the index entry.

To create the bookmark, select the text for which you want to create the entry and choose Insert, Bookmark. Then enter a name for the bookmark and click Add.

Now, build the index entry using the bookmark:

  1. Click Alt+Shift+X to display the Mark Index Entry dialog box.

  2. Enter the main entry and/or subentry text you want.

  3. Select the Page Range option.

  4. Choose the appropriate bookmark from the Bookmark drop-down list.

  5. Click Mark.

For more information about using bookmarks, see Chapter 22, "Using Footnotes, Bookmarks, and Cross-References," p. 743.

    Part I: Word Basics: Get Productive Fast
    Part II: Building Slicker Documents Faster
    Part III: The Visual Word: Making Documents Look Great
    Part IV: Industrial-Strength Document Production Techniques
    Part VI: The Corporate Word