The MHRA Style Guide Online
A Handbook for Authors and Editors • Third Edition
From Chapter 12, 'Preparation of Indexes'
• For most types of work (e.g. biographies or critical studies) a single index is normally best. For others (e.g. catalogues of manuscript collections) several indexes may be needed.
• Headings with a substantial number of page references should be subdivided: no one wants to look at all thirty-seven pages on which a person is mentioned in order to find the one that gives the date of birth. However, avoid an elaborate system of sub-entries: for many books a single level of sub-entry is sufficient.
• An exception to the ‘single level of sub-entries’ rule may be made in the case of a book dealing with very many works and aspects of the life of a single author. Taking Charles Baudelaire as an example, under the index entry for his name, there may be a sub-entry ‘Poems’ and sub-sub-entries listing the poems cited in the book, in alphabetical order of title, as in this abbreviated illustration:
Archimbaud-Dufaÿs, Caroline 2, 11
circumstances of birth 2
family 1–5; father, see Baudelaire, Joseph-François
‘À celle qui est trop gaie’ 48
‘Abel et Caïn’ 142
Baudelaire, Joseph-François 2, 23 n. 2
• It is helpful to index concepts and broad topics, but also helpful to group these as sub-entries under main entries which a reader might plausibly look up. For instance, the main entry ‘censorship’ might have ‘of television’ and ‘of theatre’ as sub-entries.
• Remember that apparently identical words that have different senses, or represent different parts of speech, must not be grouped in a single entry.
• Substantial treatment of a topic throughout several consecutive pages is shown as e.g. ‘28–32’. However, passing references to that topic on each of several consecutive pages is shown as e.g. ‘28, 29, 30, 31, 32’.
• Sub-entries should be indicated on the page by indentation. In the electronic copy, use a single tab character to achieve this rather than a series of spaces.
• In general, avoid several levels of indentation, since this would lead to very short lines in a two-column index.
• ‘See’ and ‘see also’ should be used sparingly: cross-references are best kept to cases that are genuinely helpful.
• Entries should be placed in alphabetical order, ignoring all diacritics.
• Within an entry, any sub-entries must also be in alphabetical order, but an initial preposition does not count. In the following example, ‘in legal documents’ is deemed to begin with ‘l’, and so precedes ‘in medieval lyric’ which begins with ‘m’:
Accademia della Crusca 13, 33, 37
Albinus, De arte rhet. dial. 58 n. 11
allegory 2, 15, 67–69, 101–23
in legal documents 96
in medieval lyric 34 n. 11