I am in the final stages of writing a book and currently I am preparing the index. Are there any rules whether index entries should be listed in singular or plural? Currently I have

Markov chains, 20, 30-40, 50
    with discrete state space, 33
    with continuous state space, 38

Should I change this to "Markov chain"?

  • Why not just: Markov chain(s): 20, 30... [or alternatively Markov chain (s): 20, 30... - note the space before the (s)] – Jed Oliver Mar 13 '13 at 20:21
  • @JedOliver: This sounds all good, but a bit ad-hoc. My question is mostly about whether there are commonly accepted rules. There seem to be style guides for everything, but I couldn't find one for indices ... – jochen Mar 13 '13 at 21:03
  • 1
    In that case I may need more information. Which manual of style are you using? Chicago? MLA? CSE? Turabian? I know CMoS has an extensive set of guidelines for proper and preferred formatting for indexes. Whether or not they cover plurals, I don't know. Of course, that will only help you in Chicago style - but it is a comprehensive style guide for indexes (the plural of the word meaning alphabetical list, and not the word indicative of numerical expressions, which is still indices). – Jed Oliver Mar 13 '13 at 22:27
  • I am not bound by a specific style guide. Thus, if the answer depends on the style guido chosen I can equally well make up my own. The book went to the publisher yesterday, so it's too late now anyway ... – jochen Mar 15 '13 at 14:20

I would say it depends on how the item is discussed in the body of the book.

If a Markov chain is something referred to as a single entity, then index it as a single item. If you discuss several of them at once, or generalize (like saying "black holes have thus-and-such properties"), I'd use the plural.

  • This is what I do. In the doc I'm currently working on, I talk about the such-and-such server (singular) and index it in the singular, but I talk about the things returned from that server in the plural and index them that way. – Monica Cellio Mar 13 '13 at 20:10
  • This seems to make sense, but I wonder whether there are generally accepted rules about such matters or whether everybody makes up his/her own rules. – jochen Mar 13 '13 at 21:05
  • I agree that being able to bring a source would be better, and I don't have one to hand. I wonder which style guides cover indexing and not just "body copy"? – Monica Cellio Mar 13 '13 at 21:45
  • 1
    This being the only answer, it is clearly the best! It is hereby accepted :) – jochen Mar 15 '13 at 14:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.