Get Front and Back Matter in Order

Not every book will have front and back matter, but if yours does, understand that there is a customary order in which these things usually appear. This information isn’t on the checklist because it may not apply to your book. If it does, you can download the Front and Back Matter cheat sheet.

Front and Back Matter Are Arranged Appropriately.

Front Matter is everything that comes before the table of contents. It is not numbered with the rest of the text. This is where you see those goofy lower case Roman numerals: i, ii, iii, iv, etc.

Back Matter is everything that comes after The End. It is numbered consecutively with the rest of the text.

The cheat sheet will show you what The Chicago Manual of Style prescribes for these things. Below are a few notes on the most common pieces.

preface introduction appendix footnotes

Front Matter

The Foreword contains remarks about the work or the author, perhaps both, by someone other than the author. Note the spelling. Forward is a direction you travel. The word that comes before is the foreword. I occasionally see an author who writes his own foreword. But if the author’s writing it, there’s another name for it.

The Preface contains remarks by the author about the content or its creation. You can have both a foreword and a preface if it suits you.

If you want, you can add an Introduction. According to Chicago, this can be placed either before or after the Table of Contents, depending on how closely it relates to the text. I recommend making sure your Introduction is closely related to the text and putting it after the Table of Contents. That will mean your Introduction starts on Page 1. If you’re including an Introduction, you probably want people to read it. If it’s before the Table of Contents, they may not.

If you are writing narrative nonfiction, you may use a Prologue instead of an Introduction, if it’s part of the story.

Back Matter

Chicago places Acknowledgements in the front matter, but notes that they can be placed in the back matter if preferred. I recommend putting them in the back because if they are in the front they will take up room in the Amazon “Look Inside” preview, and that’s not what people come to a preview to find.

Appendixes are, in the words of CMOS, “explanations and elaborations” but not “odds and ends that the author could not work into the text.” The latter, by the way, make for good web articles. Sometimes these elaborations take the form of charts, tables, or raw data that was summarized in the main text. You can number or letter your Appendixes, whichever you prefer.

Endnotes are often called simply Notes and they consist of the source citations for material in the text. Notes can be numbered, with a superscript number in the text pointing to a note in the back matter.

If you don’t want to clutter your text with superscripted numbers, and you only have a few notes per chapter, you can use “blind notes.” In that case, there would be nothing in the text, but the reader who digs into the back matter will find, for example, “The scholarly article mentioned in Chapter 3 can be found in…” and then a listing of the relevant bibliographic information. Scholarly works usually have complete numbered notes, whereas blind notes are used in books aimed at a general audience.

Footnotes are not Back Matter — they appear on the same page as the main text and usually are explanations rather than source citations. Footnotes are discouraged these days because they increase the complexity of the page design (and therefore the cost of paying the designer), but they are sometimes still used. Usually they will be few and far between. If you have a lot of notes, use Endnotes.

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2 Comments

  1. “Appendices” not “Appendixes”

    1. “Appendixes” is the first-listed plural in Merriam-Webster, and The Chicago Manual of Style calls for using the first-listed spelling when more than one is available.
      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/appendix

      See also CMOS 1.57, “Appendixes.”

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