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indexes: complex entry

A complex entry is composed of a main entry (with a main heading) and one or more subentries (subheadings), each with a locator. The complex entry may be presented in run-in or indent format:

Examples of how to format a complex entry
Run-in Indent
  • Maritimes, English in,
    • 21, 32, 39; French in,
    • 80; surveys in, 119
  • Maritimes,
    • English in, 21, 32, 39
    • French in, 80
    • surveys in, 119

The two formats reflect the same inverted word order, a comma follows the heading in each case, and the second and subsequent lines of the entry are indented. In the run-in format, however, the entry is presented in paragraph style, each subentry being followed by a semicolon. In the indent format the presentation is columnar: the main entry and each subentry stand on a separate line, so semicolons are not required. In neither case does a period close the entry.

The advantage of the run-in format is that it saves space and can provide a semi‑narrative, chronological outline of events in a biographical or historical context, as shown in the following listing for a Canadian ship that was engaged in action in World War II:

  • Haida, 197, 250; action of April 26/44, 251; action of April 29/44, 253, 258, 266; action of June 9/44, 286, 300; U-boat kill, 302; Channel and Biscay actions, 340, 348, 359, 401, 406

The advantage of the indent format is that it is more legible and makes the relationships between items more readily apparent to the reader. Use it when such relationships are to be highlighted, as in the case of scientific indexes:

  • Muscles, skeletal
    • congenital defects of, 342
    • contracture of, 326
    • diseases of, 226
    • dystrophy of, 326, 896
      • enzootic, 893, 896, 1015
      • foals, 424
    • hypertrophy, inherited, 1052

The example, taken from the field of veterinary medicine, illustrates the use of sub‑subentries. In such circumstances a columnar presentation is essential.

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