Difference between Table of Contents and Index

Difference between Table of Contents and Index

Being a writer takes a lot of work more than you would ever expect, and that is why you need to put your heart into it. You will also have to think about publishing your pieces which means you have to compile them in a way that would them readable. In line with this, there is a lot of information that you have to process and arrange your pages so that the whole thing would make sense.

An average novel or document would take months, if not years, to have done. You need to make sure that you will keep your reader as interested as possible in what you wrote. This also means you will have to make an index or a table of contents page to be sure that the readers will not have any difficulties finding what they want.

A table of contents page is so important because it helps to provide a map to your book to the reader, so they can track down where they are and where they want to be. On the other hand, the index does the same, and to the writer, both of them help figure out if there is anything missing. While the two may look the same, there are actually so many differences between them.

Learning to differentiate the table of contents from the index will help you figure out more about how things work and the know-how to make your book more readable for your target audience.

Table of Contents Vs. Index

The main difference between an index and the table of contents would probably be the fact that the table of contents is found at the opening of a book while the index is generally found at the end. Another difference would be in their content.

While the table of contents would list the chapters of the book and its parts, the index would have the information of every chapter and its corresponding parts. Basically, the table of contents would show how the book is organized and what to expect per chapter. Meanwhile, the index would have the important parts of the chapters along with the line and page number, which in turn would help you understand more about it. Basically, it is quite like the summary of the book.

For a book to have a table of contents page, it needs to have more than ten pages, while there are no requirements to having an index page. You will be able to differentiate a table of contents page and the index page once you encounter different books that have them. Familiarizing yourself with them will help you out in the long run of things so that you can make them work when you write your own book.

What is a Table of Contents?

The table of contents is normally written as “table of contents” or just “contents” depending on the author. It is a page or a couple of pages that have all the information you need about the sections of the book. It is basically a list of chapters the book covers as well as their corresponding pages. It normally comes right after the title page of the book and the details page that has the copyright notices and such.

When a book has different authors, they are normally listed in the table so that the reader is able to figure out which content they like to read first. The arrangement of the table of contents is normally chronological or alphabetical, depending on the author. By doing so, it helps give the readers a sense of order so that they would know which part they want to read first.

On the other hand, the writer is also able to skim through the contents of the book so that he or she would know if there is anything missing before the publication of the book.

The table of contents is an important part of the book, but depending on the preference of the writer, it can be omitted.

What is an Index?

The index records all of the details necessary to help the reader understand the book better. It also helps out the reader by acting as a guide in finding the particular topic or section of the book without the need to read through the entire thing again.

A good index would help a person understand the topics better, the references, or any terms required from the reader to know more about a specific page. It is normally located at the end of the book so that the flow or sequence of the book is not disturbed and so that it can be easily accessed by the reader.

The information of the index is normally arranged in an alphabetical manner and covers all the main parts within every chapter. The length of the index would depend on the book and its size. Normally an index would compose about 5% of the number of pages of the book.

A quick guideline to making an index would be to work on it once the book has been edited out, keep the information as precise as possible, and use lower case letters.

Difference Between Table of Contents and Index

  • The main difference between the table of contents and the index would be that the table of contents has titles and page numbers of the different chapters, while the index is mostly a list of the important words and concepts.
  • The table of contents is found at the beginning of the book, while the index is found at the end of it.
  • A table of contents is only possible for books with more than 10 pages, while an index can be used for books of any page number.


A reader has to have a basic knowledge about the book to learn more about it, and the table of contents gives that. On the other hand, the index further explains things about the book so that it would be easier to understand more about it. Now that you know about how they work, a book can be handled much easier.

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