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Alphabetizing Rules

Here are some rules for alphabetical filing of your records, based on the Indiana Commission on Public Records - Records Management .

For data entry, always check for records having been entered with other spellings, before making a new record.

Contact me for data cleanup projects, including making your data consistent for proper alphabetizing.


1. Names (Nikki B. Schultz)

Alphabetize according to the last name first, then the first name, then any initial.

Schultz, Nikki B.

2. Initials (A.E. Richards)

Alphabetize an initial before a name beginning with the same letter. Data entry: enter full name if known.

Richards, A.E. before
Richards, Ashley E.

3. Names with prefixes, with or without spaces (Al, De, Del, De La, Dela, El, Las, Le, Les, Los, Van, Van der, Vander, Von, etc.)

Treat a surname with a prefix the same as any other surname.

Treat surnames with spaces as if were one word.

Data entry: Agree on a standard and keep to it. Suggestion: separate foreign language words (De la Cruz), unless commonly put together (LeBarbra)

LeBarbra, Mary before
Lebeuf, Michael

De la Cruz, Gloria before
Dela Cruz, Maria (enter as De la Cruz, Maria) before
De la Fuente, Cristobal before
Delaney, Mark

4. Abbreviated personal names
Wm. J. Klebsch
Barbara St. James

Alphabetize as though the names are spelled out. Exception: don't spell out St. (for Saint).

Data entry: Spell out words, except St. for Saint.

Klebsch, William J. after
Klebsch, Whitley

Exception: St. James, Barbara after
Scranton, Richard

5. Hyphenated names or compound names (Jean Melius-Tiff, Maria Garcia Lopez)

Alphabetize the entire surname as one name (look for consistent use of the compound name, rather than using a maiden name as a middle name). Spanish and Italian language names often have compound names.

Data entry: Put the hyphen in if the person uses one.

Melius-Tiff, Jean after
Melius, Julie

Garcia Lopez, Maria

6. Professional titles with the name
(the Rev. Tom K. Stone)

Disregard the title when alphabetizing.

Data entry: put titles in separate fields (prefix like Mr or Rev., postfix like M.D.)

Stone, Tom K. (Rev.)

7. Personal titles
(John G. Richards, Jr.)

Alphabetize after other units in the name.

Richards, John R. Jr. before
Richards, John R. Sr.

8. Single letters in business names
(J & M Computers)

Index each letter as a single unit, disregarding prepositions and conjunctions.

J & M Computers before
KM Computers

9. Married titles
(Mrs. Alfred Lee, or Mrs. Margaret Lee)

Alphabetize according to the name provided.

Data entry: enter the given name (Mrs. Margaret Lee), with salutation as specified (Mrs. Alfred Lee)

Lee, Alfred Mrs., before
Lee, Margaret Mrs.

10. Abbreviations in business names
(SF Business Times)

Alphabetize as though abbreviations are spelled out.

Data entry: Spell out name, with alias for abbreviated form.

San Francisco Business Times before
Sanford Cleaners

11. Articles and prepositions
(Burton on Trent)

Small words and symbols are disregarded when alphabetizing.

Data entry: Enter full name, including articles and prepositions (Burton on Trent), with alias (Burton Trent). Discard "the", or put at end (Pet Store, The)

Burton on Trent after
Burton Supplies

The Pet Store before
Price King

12. Hyphenated business names
(Klapp-Lapp Grocery)

Alphabetize each word as one unit.

Klapp-Lapp Grocery before
Klapp-Mars Auto Service

13. Compound business names
(Inter-State Cab Co.)

Index compound names as one unit.

Inter-State Cab Co. after
International Glass Co.

14. Compound geographic names
(Las Vegas Supply)

Alphabetize compound name as one unit (as if were LasVegas).

Las Vegas Supply after
Last Stop Supply

15. Possessives (Smith's Candy)

Alphabetize each unit, disregarding the 's.

Data entry: include the possessive

Smith's Candy before
Smith Grocery

16. Numbers in names
(59th Street Salon)

Alphabetize in numerical sequence.

Data entry: Agree whether to use numbers or spell out the numerical words. Put the other spelling as an alias.

59th Street Salon after
42nd Street Theaters

17. Federal government
(Department of Defense)

When alphabetizing departments or Agencies, start with "United States Government".

United States Government Department of Defense after
New Jersey Department of Agriculture

18. Foreign government
(Republic of China)

Alphabetize by the country name, then the department name.

China Republic before
Denmark Department of Education

19. Schools
(King Elementary, Bensalem, PA.)

Alphabetize by the name, then by city and state.

King Elementary, Bensalem, Pennsylvania before
King Elementary, Chicago, Illinois

20. Colleges and universities
(Princeton University)

Alphabetize by name, then by city and state.

Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey before
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

21. Hospitals
(Morris County General)

Alphabetize as written, then by city and state.

Morris County General, Morristown, New Jersey before
Morris County General, Newtown, Alabama

22. Financial institutions
(Summit Bank)

Alphabetize as written, then by city and state.

Summit Bank, New York, New York before
Summit Bank, Tallahassee, Florida

23. Foreign names
(Bing Ho Yung)

When surnames and given names cannot be distinguished, alphabetize as they appear. Some cultures have family name first, some last, and some switch to match the culture they are living in - for example, some Chinese-American families use family name first while others match American customs.

Data entry: Check for record with alternate spellings (Bing, Ho Yung vs Yung, Bing Ho) and cross-verify (e.g. do phone numbers match). Consider labeling field "Family name" instead of "Last name".

Bing Ho Yung before
Lin a Ho Yung

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