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Contents

Letter-by-Letter vs Word-by-Word 

Chapter:
Medical Indexes
Author(s):

Bruce McGregor

and Harriet S. Meyer

Letter-by-Letter vs Word-by-Word

These are 2 styles of alphabetization. Letter-by-letter considers all letters of the entire entry, ignoring spaces between words. Word-by-word sorts by the first word of an entry term, then the next word. Letter-by-letter alphabetization is commonly used by scholarly publishers4 and is the familiar arrangement found in dictionaries and encyclopedias.3,4 Word-by-word sorting might result in more informative groupings of terms, especially multipart terms,3,4 but in medical indexes letter-by-letter sorting usually allows readers to locate terms equally well. Consult indexing texts for detailed descriptions of these 2 methods of sorting. The publisher may specify a sorting style. The following examples are adapted from Thomas9:

Letter-by-Letter

Word-by-Word

heart

heart

heart block

heart block

heartburn

heart disease

heart disease

heart failure

heart failure

heart murmur(s)

heart murmur(s)

heart rate

heart rate

heart sound(s)

heart sounds

heartburn

heartworm infection

heartworm infection

xanthomatosis

X chromosome

X chromosome

xanthomatosis

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