Structuring the book: Does it matter?

Orderliness is a pre-requisite in all aspect of our lives. There seem to be questions when there is a disorder or disorganisation in any activity or situation. Likewise, when the book is not organised as expected, there is some level of confusion. A book educates and gives information to target readers. Hence, it needs to be arranged and structured in such a manner that it gives all necessary information and directs the reader.

Every book, no matter the number of pages, should have an organised structure to carry readers along from the very first page through to the last page. The main idea for having a good book structure is to give apt information to readers.  

Every standard book ought to be structured into three main parts before it is published. The parts of a book are Front matter or Preliminary pages, Body matter, and Back matter or End matter. Each part of the book has peculiar elements that relay information to readers. This is more reason the structuring or organising the book is of importance to the reader especially.

The front matter of a book is the first few pages that come before the main body of the book. These pages give information on the book, the title and persons who contributed to the published books. The main elements of the front matter or preliminary pages of a book, in order of sequence are: half title or bastard title, frontispiece, full title page, copyright page, dedication, table of contents, list of illustrations, foreword, preface, acknowledgments, introduction, prologue, list of abbreviation/acronyms/terms, list of contributors.

It is important to note that, some of the elements of the front matter are not applicable to some types of publications, hence the need to do some research before they are included in a book. Often, many readers skip the front matter, thereby missing some important information about the book. Readers must know that it is necessary to read the front matter of every book since it provides them with some information, and assists them to form a first impression about the book they are yet to read.

The second part of a book, which is the body matter, also known as main text is where an author presents his or her core content or information. This part of a book should be organised well, so as to retain readers’ attention. There should be consistency in presenting the content or information to readers. Usually, the body matter of the book is divided into parts, sections, chapters or units depending on the genre or type of book. The use of Parts may be found in non-fictional books, whereas Chapters may be used for either non-fictional or fictional books. A new chapter of a book should always start on a new page, preferably on a right-hand page. Chapters, units, or parts can have headings; nonetheless, these headings ought to be relevant to the text following them. Illustrations in the body matter must be captioned well and placed very close to the text they are referred to. The use of headers and footnotes could be optional, but when used, consistency is key.

The third part of a book, which is the last part of any standard book, is the back matter, also known as end matter. This part consists of elements that come after the main or core content of a book. The back matter may include elements such as epilogue, keywords, glossary, index, bibliography, discussion questions, and appendix or addendum. Just like the front matter, some of these elements are optional or may not appear in a book, depending on the type of publication.

Pagination of the book also helps with the organisation of the book. The page numbers or folios for front matter should be in lowercase Roman numerals. The first three pages of the front matter, thus, half title, frontispiece and full title page should not be given a page number: the numbering of the front matter should start with the copyright page to the last of the front matter. The body matter should be in Arabic numerals, starting from the first page of the main content of the book through to the last page of the back matter.  Page numbers can be omitted on pages containing only illustration or table.

As much as it is necessary to relay information and educate readers, it is very important to structure the content of the book block to suit the readers. Structuring the book really matters in any type of book publication, with consistency and clarity as key focus.