Indexing Demystified

When I had finished my indexing course more than two years ago, my friends would ask me, “what is indexing?” I tried explaining it in simple terms, making this craft sound even more mysterious. For those who have been wondering what indexing is all about, I’ll try my best to describe it in this article.


Indexing can have several definitions. The term “web indexing” refers to the process of storing web contents, while “search engine indexing” means collecting and storing web data for “fast and accurate information retrieval.”[1] The indexing I’m referring to can be best understood in the context of books, journals, monographs, and other similar media. Basically, an index is a list of terms you’ll find at the end of most non-fiction books, and indexing is the process of generating such list.

Creating a high-quality index involves a great deal of analytical thinking and, of course, attention to detail. An indexer will read a text, try to locate the key concept and terms, and discover ways they are interrelated. A good index will always have a lot of sub-entries, references, and even double postings.

Some of the issues around the index-making process involve size requirements made by an author/publisher. If an index needs not to exceed a certain number of pages, choosing the right entries/sub-entries might become a challenge. An indexer will need to learn how to balance between making detailed references and economizing space–a very daunting task. Nevertheless, an indexer’s job can be very rewarding, as he/she gets to read a lot of books from many fields. Many former librarians, PhD graduates, and, broadly speaking, humanities majors choose to become indexers. Indexing is in demand in many fields, including sciences and law.

Why every non-fiction book should have an index

Recently, I had read a wonderful book on an excavation project in the Golan Heights written by one of the greatest scholars in the field. The content was amazing, and images, priceless. The problem was, it didn’t have an index. Since I was reading the book for enjoyment, this lacking didn’t affect me too much. However, if I were to use it for a research project, then there would be a problem.  Surely, one can use a table of contents to navigate around a book, but what about specific terms? How can one find them without an index? The answer is, going page by page. The process can quickly become wearisome for a reader and may affect his/her perception of the whole book. That’s why every non-fiction title, especially a scholarly one, should have a carefully-written index. Not only will it enrich the content but will also make the entire book more user-friendly.

Knowing your options as an author

As a non-fiction author, you have several options including writing your own index or using computerized software to create one.  There is nothing wrong with either of them. It’s even possible to generate one using the “Insert Index” feature located under the “References” tab in Microsoft Office.[2] To do so, you’ll have to mark entries first using the “Mark Entry” button, also located under the “References” tab. [3] If you click on the button, you’ll be able to key in sub-entries, cross references, and page ranges, as well as choose the format for page numbers. Although this method  may sound easy, you might end up with extra work, such as reversing some of the terms manually (i.e., “indexing, the art of” instead of “the art of indexing”) and ensuring these terms stay in an alphabetic order.

To avoid the hassle and to save time, you can always hire a professional indexer. Indexers use specialized software that alphabetizes all entries and sub-entries automatically and can format documents according to individual preferences (i.e., either run-in or indented). Also, if you want your sub-entries organized in a non-alphabetical order but to follow a certain chronology, your indexer will take care of that.  Even if you’ve already written an index, it’s always good to get a second opinion. Hiring an indexer might sound like a costly undertaking, but it will definitely be a great investment.





American Society for Indexing 

Indexing Society of Canada

“A Good Index,” by Siusan Moffat.




A Rough Guide to Buying an Archaeology Magazine

Have you ever found yourself flipping through colorful pages of some archaeology magazine while standing in the Science and Technology section of magazines at Chapters and Indigo? Then you’re definitely not alone. Many people, including myself, enjoy reading about archaeology. Whether you’re looking for general information or articles on very specific topics, you can find many such magazines available both in-store and online. While almost all news updates are now available on the Internet, in-depth discussions and debates can only be found in specialty magazines and books. Many of these discussions are quite enthralling and will leave you wondering how much do we really know.

There are several archaeology magazines from across the globe. If you live in Canada, you can find these magazines in most of the Chapters and Indigo stores as well as some Shoppers Drug Marts and Convenience stores. They are also available online for annual/bi-annual subscriptions. Below is the general information on some of them.

Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR)

If you’re into some serious stuff, BASOR is definitely for you. This peer-reviewed journal published by the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) contains articles on art, archaeology, anthropology, paleography, epigraphy, and many other similar topics. Among the areas of focus are ancient Canaan, Anatolia, Cyprus, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. Just beware that it’s not the type of a magazine you’ll want to read on your couch on a Friday night. The text is very elaborate and requires a great deal of concentration. However, it’s highly recommended for anyone who is serious about the subject.

Cost: US $280 for US residents and US $310 for the rest. I had bought it back in 2013 together with an ASOR membership for a much lesser value, but I can’t recall how much exactly I had paid.

Near Eastern Archaeology (NEA)

Not unlike BASOR, NEA is also published by ASOR and is geared towards a scholarly audience. However, I find it a bit more accessible in terms of language and content than BASOR. I also like the fact that it features summer digs and general books about the field. The price is a big factor too.

Cost: US$40 for US residents and US $65 for the rest.

Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR)

Whether you’re wondering if Jezebel was really that evil or if the James Ossuary is authentic, BAR is the right place to find the information. Beautifully designed and written in an accessible language, BAR focuses on the latest research in the lands of Israel, Jordan, and occasionally Turkey. The magazine’s website, the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS), also features free books as well as upcoming digs, seminars, and lectures. For an additional cost, you can also subscribe to the BAS library and find more resources written on the Biblical archaeology.

Cost: US$24.97 for print and US $19.97 for digital subscriptions. For the fist-time subscribers, the magazine offers a year-round subscription at $US 13.97. Well, the big downside of this offer is that it’s valid for US customers only. So if you live in the United States and are interested in archaeology, be sure to seize this opportunity!


For anyone who is more interested in general archaeology, Archaeology is the right fit. Published by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), this magazine contains both long and short articles about findings from all over the globe. Both magazine and the website feature countless field opportunities, books, and specialty events.

Cost: US$14.97 for print/electronic (Canadian and foreign residents add US $15)

 American Journal of Archaeology

Also published by AIA, the American Journal of Archaeology is a scholarly journal that has articles on the Greco-Roman world as well as the ancient Near East. Judging from the abstracts provided online, it’s a very serious journal. So be sure to grab your coffee first to keep your mind focused!

Cost: US $80 for print/electronic

Egyptian Archaeology

Egypt’s fans will definitely appreciate this magazine. Published by the Egypt Exploration Society and based in England, Egyptian Archaeology contains articles written by prominent Egyptologists and archaeology specialists.

Cost: £48 per year (£56 Overseas/Non-UK) for a yearly membership with the organization, which also includes a  magazine subscription. An individual issue costs £5.95.

Kmt a Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt

Based in Weaverville, North Carolina, Kmt Journal is another great source of information for Egyptology students and enthusiasts. The journal features articles on excavations and research written by specialists from across the world. On the website, you can also find the list of the latest titles on Ancient Egypt as well as a links to the travel website.

Cost: US $37 for US and US$45 for Canada

Minerva Magazine

Based in London, UK, Minerva publishes articles on art and archaeology of ancient Egypt, the Near East, Greece, Rome, and Scandinavia. It’s also a great source of information for museum junkies interested in the latest exhibitions happening around the globe.

Cost:  US $60/ £38 per six issues for Canada/US residents (£28.50/£30 for UK and £33 for Europe residents)


Don’t forget to check out the Friends of ASOR page that offers a free online journal! The subscription is quick and easy and, above all, won’t cost you anything. All you’ll have to do is create an account with the Friends of ASOR to start receiving newsletters with articles on Near Eastern archaeology.



Fighting for Cultural Heritage: Does it Matter?

It’s no secret that we live in a less-than perfect world. Sadly, the modern geography is changing rapidly, and in a few years, parts of the Middle East might end up looking differently on the map. With refuge crises and terror threat being constantly replayed in the media, it’s easy to forget about heritage destruction happening in Syria, Iraq, and a few other countries. After all, why would anyone care about a bunch of statues disappearing when thousands of people are dying or fleeing for their lives? Yet anyone with a background in archaeology or world history would agree that heritage destruction is one of the biggest tragedies of the modern age.

I’m part of the ASOR’s Syrian Heritage Initiatives, a global effort to document cultural damage happening in Syria and Iraq. I decided to join it mainly because of my former academic background, which is in Near Eastern archaeology and languages, and because I simply care. I must admit that sometimes, it’s hard to remain optimistic about the whole project. Let’s face it; all we can really do at the moment is to collect the data and record the damage. Surely, there are people who are trying to rescue ancient treasures on the ground, but it’s an extremely risky business and the success rates aren’t terribly high. As for the post-war preservation projects, it’s hard to tell what the future holds. Nevertheless, there is still hope.

Places such as Palmyra and Nimrud are very important to the scholarly community worldwide. Anyone who has been in the academia even for a short period of time can testify how hard getting hold of the past can be. Even findings that are easily available can present so many enigmas. Talk about forgery trials regularly featured in the Biblical Archaeology Review. When significant portions of evidence disappear, more gaps need to be filled.

With modern technology, it’s much easier to track down sites that have been looted, intentionally destroyed, or damaged as a result of military activity. It’s even possible to preserve entire manuscript libraries and reconstruct ancient cities digitally. There are several organizations that work on heritage preservation.

The Aleppo Project

Supported by the Center for Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery School of Public Policy in Budapest, Hungary, the Aleppo Project is collaboration among people who care about the city’s future. The goal of the project is to gather information about the city’s past, document military damage, and plan for post-war restoration. The organization is currently looking for blog writers, map designers, and people who are interested in sharing their opinion about various matters by completing surveys.

The Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology (APSA)

APSA aims at gathering information about the region and documenting damage done to heritage sites. The organization consists of volunteer professionals from various fields, including archaeology, journalism, and web technology, who are eager to contribute their skills to the cause.

The Canadian Centre for Epigraphic Documents (CCED)

Run by a group of scholars and information professionals from Toronto, Canada, and other parts of the world, the center aims at creating digital archives of epigraphic materials from the Middle East and beyond.  The center’s main area of focus is early Christian writings of Syriac/Aramaic origin.

Heritage for Peace

Based in Girona, Spain, Heritage for Peace consists of a volunteer network of heritage specialists from across the world. The organization seeks to document heritage destruction and support Syrians in protecting their cultural heritage. Currently, the organization isn’t actively looking for volunteers. However, they do need help in managing social media and writing the newsletter.

Monuments of Mosul

Supported by The Czech Academy of Sciences, the project aims at documenting monuments that had been destroyed by the Islamic State.  Currently, the team is working on releasing a satellite map of all the monuments and is requesting for more information on thirty eight statues that yet need to be identified.

Project Mosul

As the name indicates, the project focuses on restoring and preserving northern Iraq’s heritage via digital resources. Currently, the project representatives are looking for help in sorting and masking images from various destruction scenes that had taken place at the Northwest Palace in Nimrud and other similar sites.

New Palmyra

The project’s main goal is recreate the site of Palmyra virtually, using computer technology. So far, the models of the Ach of Triumph and the Temple of Bel have been created. Hopefully, more sites will be reconstructed in future with the help of digital specialists.

The Syrian Heritage Initiatives (CHI)

Supported by the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) and the US Department of State, the CHI seeks to document damage, promote awareness, and plan post-war responses. The team is always looking for help in various fields.

How can you help?

You don’t have to be a scholar or a specialist in 3D technology. Anyone with basic computer skills can contribute to either of these projects. These organizations are constantly looking for artists, researchers, archivists, and people of many other professions to help out with various tasks. If you know another language, especially French or Arabic, it’s always a bonus, as many of these organizations have communications in foreign languages. No matter what your talent is, you can become an integral part of the global effort to save our heritage.


The Apostrophe: Should It Stay or Go?

Dealing with the apostrophe can be undoubtedly frustrating. It often seems that everyone is misusing this small diacritical mark. Names such as “Mens Hair Styling” and “Dads Favorite Shop” are not uncommon among professional establishments. Text messaging and newspaper writing are a whole different story. Such frequency in misuse leads many to believe that the apostrophe should be abolished from the English language. If it’s gone, there’ll one less rule to remember, right? Well, not exactly. There’ll be way more complications than anyone can possibly imagine.

Learning rules about the apostrophe is not an insurmountable task. With a little bit of patience and persistence, anyone can accomplish it.  Basically, it is needed in the following instances:

  • To indicate contractions, such as “I’m,” “you’re,” “he’s,” and “she’s,” as well as “can’t” and “won’t”
  • To mark the possessive case, such as “cat’s” or “dog’s
  • To mark plurals of letters, such as “i’s” and “a’s,” when necessary

While singular nouns require an additional “s” after the apostrophe, plurals don’t need one. Most of the confusion arises when an acronym or a name ending in “s” needs to be put in the possessive case.  Here are some basic rules.

  • Classical names, such as Socrates, do not need an extra “s” in the possessive case. This letter is also optional for Western names, such as Keats and Harris.
  • Plural last names, such as Ellises, don’t need “s” similarly to other plurals ending in that letter.
  • Acronyms and numbers don’t require the apostrophe when used in the plural form

Ambiguity can be caused by the pronouns “it’s” and “its”.  The first represents the contraction form of “it is,” while the latter is simply “it” written in the possessive case. Once you master this rule, everything else becomes straightforward.

Abolishing the apostrophe will create new and confusing homographs, such as “were,” “well,” “Ill,” and “hell”. Together with misuse of commas, lack of the apostrophe can spell real trouble. Imagine the following sentences: “Well look at that,” “were late,” or “nurses home flooded.” Some may argue that the meaning can be easily guessed from the context. However, I don’t see a reason why we need to create more room for confusion by eradicating the apostrophe.

There are many other complicated grammatical rules in the English language besides those connected to the apostrophe. These include, but are not limited to, the use of commas, semicolons, modal auxiliaries, articles, and conjunctions. This already extensive list excludes all of the irregular verbs in English that can be remembered only through memorization and/or frequent use. If we were to eliminate all sources for potential confusion, half of our language would be gone. So the best thing to do is preserve and to continue learning.


 “Using Apostrophes in Awkward Plurals.” Grammar Monster.

Crystal, David. The Fight for English, How the Language Pundits Ate, Shot, and Left. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Langley, William. “When theyre gone, well all be struggling with English.” The Telegraph, January 31, 2009.

McArthur, Tom and Feri McArthur. The Oxford Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Nordquist, Richard. “Guidelines for Using Apostrophes Correctly.”, 2014.

Room, Adrian. “Axing the Apostrophe.” English Today 5:3 (1989): 21-23.

The Apostrophe Protection Society. “The Correct Use of the Apostrophe in English.”