Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Table of Contents is Your Map

One of the first pages that I look for when I pick up a book is the table of contents. It quickly gives me an idea of what is included in the book and where it is located. It is like a map that provides easier navigation within the book. The table of contents is very handy for the reader not only when they first pick up the book, but each time they are looking for specific information or a certain story.

Here are some tips for a good table of contents page. Keep the style of your table of contents (margins, fonts) consistent with the rest of your book. Include all of the chapter titles and as many of the important stories or documents that would be helpful. I like to have a dot leader (several periods in a row) before the page number, but they aren’t necessary. By using a right tab stop with dot leader in your word processor, the page numbers and the dots will all line up. If you want, you can make a separate page that lists all the pictures in the book and their page numbers.

It is possible to “mark” your chapters in your word processor and automatically generate the table of contents with the page numbers on them. Some have been successful at this, but I suggest the manual method of making the table of contents. It is usually much faster and easier. Here is a step by step guide for the automatic generation in Word. Microsoft has templates that you can use. Here is a link to the template.

Here is a link to Wikipedia’s more detailed explanation of the table of contents for those that would like to read more.

Chris Stevenson

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