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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"?

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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
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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

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

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.

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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
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This being the only answer, it is clearly the best! It is hereby accepted :) –  jochen Mar 15 '13 at 14:21

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