Rule Number One

The rules of indexing,  not counting those that are the responsibility of basic education, are few.   The most useful are grounded in common sense and should therefore be self-evident.  Among these the most important is the one I usually formulate as: Index the idea, not the word. Authors present their views in terms of concepts–ideas […]

The Ginsberg Variations

Speaking of Lionel Trilling, as I was some months ago, I have often thought of my omission of his most famous student, Allen Ginsberg, who was at Columbia in the mid-forties and who was also a Paterson schoolmate of mine. Over the years we spoke about five or six times, not counting the semester that […]

The Explorer

Professional indexers do not often get a chance to index books they have written, an appealing idea I thought.  That was one of the reasons I agreed to ghostwrite a book on earth’s vanishing primitive peoples.   The author was Lewis Cotlow whose films and books included titles like Passport to Adventure, Amazon Head-Hunters,  Zanzabuku, or […]


Last week the silent service got an unexpected fifteen minutes of fame without doing a thing. The thing was of course the Sarah Palin memoir, Going Rogue, published without an index by HarperCollins.  For this lapse the publisher was awarded a “Golden Turkey” by the American Society of Indexers.  Soon after announcing the Award, ASI […]

Trivia, Some Context On

Trivia. This is a topic that I have been meaning to write about for months.  Indexers collect trivia by the bushel: the oddments, scraps, crumbs, and often the unintentionally remembered leavings of their daily work.  They are known to inflict it on each other or anyone else who might be listening. Trivia should not be […]

Indexing FAQs

Editor’s Note: The following FAQs were selected and answered by indexing dean Philo del Sorto. Has a film ever been based on an index? Aside from suggestively titled movies like Alfie (1966), the nearest an index has come to taking its place in film history is The Alphabet Murders (1965) which was based on an […]

The Nine Bad Moves of Indexing: Part Two

The Nine Bad Moves of Indexing (and How to Avoid Them) by J. Bissell, P. del Sorto, and G. Tuesday Part Two: Moves 6-9 6 ) Do not underindex. Your decision about how much to index is likely to be based not only on your practiced sense of what the readers of your assigned book […]

The Nine Bad Moves of Indexing (and How to Avoid Them)

Last week in the Pleasantville Diner, a haven for local indexers, a trio of indexologists was discussing the worst indexing mistakes they had seen in their long and illustrious careers. Leading the way, was the venerable dean of Northern Westchester indexers, P. del Sorto. Together they drafted the following set of principles under a title […]