Indexing “Connecticut Beer”

One of the elements of writing “Connecticut Beer” (due out in May from the History Press) that I did not count on was creating an index. I somehow thought that indexes came out of the air, maybe. Or at the very least that an editor somewhere in the intricacies of a publishing company would handle it. But, as it turns out, it’s my job.

I’m actually very grateful to have the job, since it gives me a chance to see my book in a whole new way. It’s really about breaking down the key nouns, which means brewery names, brewery owners’ names, and styles of beer. I’m also including town names in the index, so that if someone wanted to search for a place near them, that might be helpful.

Going through the Word document and creating the index is really just busy work, but you have to keep a sharp eye nonetheless. You basically find the word you’re searching to index, then scroll over it, and give it the old “shift-alt-X” treatment. Making sure you hit the necessary words without repeating too many (you can’t just index the word “beer” every time it comes up, for example) is important.

One interesting element was how many times “homebrewing” was indexed. In almost every chapter I’ve got a reference to homebrewing. In the history section, I refer to homebrewing. It’s really a book about amateur beer makers as much as it’s about professional brewing.

So the next time you pick up a nonfiction book, about beer or anything else, consider the index and the choices that some hard-working editor (or writer) had to make. Then raise a glass to him or her.

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