Microsoft Word Index Entries Out of Order

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Indexing with Word is pretty good. You go to places in text that you want in the index, enter the text you want to appear in the index, push a button and shazam, an index, all aphabetical and formatted and everything. In theory. But I’ve had a strange problem in Word 2000. I was creating an index and some entries were missing. I went looking and realized they were in the index, but completely out of place. This is what the faulty index looks like when it’s generated by Word. Note the out of order entries in bold.

Floutet, Aima, 294
Floutetta. Vr Monthouz, Aima (dite la Floutetta)
Maître, Louise (fl. d’Ami, 111, 164, 176, 515
Dentrue, Jeanne (fl. d’Emery, 357

Folliet, Pierre, 27

After tearing my hair out for a while I noticed a clue. See it? I finally noticed that the parentheses weren’t closed on the out of order items. When I looked, I realized that the markup in the actual text, that is the entry that is supposed to end up in the index in the first case was

Maître, Louise (fl. d’Ami; fm. de J.-Ja. Bonivard)

So at least in Word 2000, if you try to index text with a semicolon in it, it truncates everything from the semicolon on (the text in bold). That part just gets completely cut off and doesn’t show up in the generated index, but it isn’t entirely discarded. Note in particular what it’s done: it is now indexed alphabetically according to the truncated text that is now invisible. In other words, I tell it to index Maitre, Louise (fl. d’Ami; fm. de J.-Ja. Bonivard), which I expect to appear like that under Mai, but instead it appears as
Maitre, Louise (fl. d’Ami and gets filed under Fm. Very strange behavior. I suppose I could use it to set an alternate order to my index. I can think of hundreds of situations where I would want to do this. Oh wait a minute, maybe not.

I wonder if Microsoft has fixed this in the intervening eight years. Since there’s nothing in the Microsoft Knowledge Base, I’m guessing it’s still not fixed unless there was a total rewrite of indexing and it got fixed by accident, but I don’t think there’s been a total rewrite of Word for a long, long time.

If you arrive here because you had the same problem in a newer version of Word, please leave a comment. For that matter, if you’ve tested it in another version of Word and the problem doesn’t exist, please leave a comment to that effect. Just curious.

2 Responses to “Microsoft Word Index Entries Out of Order”

  1. Chester

    I’ve been searching around forever, and finally found your post! I’m having the same issue, I believe. My index entries are somewhat out of order, and the semicolon issue seems to be present in each one. I haven’t found a solution for this though, but it’s nice (in a way) to see it’s not just me. Note, this is in Word 2010 and 2016 (which came out some time after your post!).

  2. Wow that’s one from the archives! Sadly I don’t think there’s a solution other than to never use semicolons in your index entries. Best of luck Chester!

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