Alphabetical Filing Rules! And Here are Some Rules, Too

As an admin, I’ve often had to do filing for the companies I’ve worked for.  Various places may have very specific rules, such as medical files, which I haven’t been privy to, or filing by number either ascending or descending.

But there are standard alphabetical systems that most people use for client files. The most common—and the easiest—is unit-to-unit, which takes each part of the header into consideration.  Generally, this process has some basic rules.

Everyone knows their alphabet, right?  If you get confused (don’t worry, it can happen after a long night!), you can sing the little song:


Let’s say you have some folders with these headers:

  • 88 Company LLC
  • Bob Anders Corporation
  • W. L. Logistics
  • Plant Management Co.
  • Planters Welding
  • W. W. Lampe
  • The Camdenton Association

How in the world do you file these?

Numbers go first

88 Company LLC will go first.  Don’t go by what the WORD begins with (i.e. eight, with an E).  Searchers will look for the file header itself, not some hidden message there.  So your system will start with numerical headers.

If you’re using an alphabetical system, you’ll file numbers in ascending order, that is smallest to largest, the same way you would proceed through the alphabet.

When you get to letters, initials go first within their letter designation.

W.L. Logistics and W.W. Lampe both begin with the letter W.  Which one goes first?  Well, L comes before W in the alphabet, so look at the initials first.

W.L. Logistics,

Followed by

W.W. Lampe.

If you had W.W. Logistics and W.W Lampe, then you look past the identical letters to the first different one.  Thus W.W. Lampe would go first, because La comes before Lo.  The same is true for Plant Management Company and Planters Welding.  E comes before M, so Planters Welding is first.

Got it?

If a person’s name is part of the title, use the first letter of the first name

Bob Anders Corporation would be filed under B, not A. It’s part of the title.  When someone refers to this company, they’ll say “Bob Anders Corporation,” or maybe just “Bob Anders.”

If you’re filing by the actual person’s name instead of a company, most systems will do it by the last name.  So the header would look like this:  Anders, Bob.  Then he would go under A.  Name-based files would look like this:

  • Acton, Catherine
  • Anders, Bob
  • Asshole, The Boss




Ignore the article “the”

Where does The Camdenton Association go?  Not under T, although I’ve seen people do this many, many times.  File headers typically don’t begin with A or An, although technically if it’s part of the name, such as An Excellent Cupcake Baker, it would go under A.

Most systems ignore The because it’s so common.  Pretend it isn’t there, and file them under C for Camdenton.

So how should the completed file batch appear?

Like this:

  • 88 Company LLC
  • Bob Anders Corporation
  • The Camdenton Association
  • Planters Welding
  • Plant Management Co.
  • W. L. Logistics
  • W. W. Lampe

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.



These are very simplified rules, and no doubt your company will have its own quirks.  But the basics will usually apply, whether you’re using paper files or electronic ones.

When setting up a filing system, remember that everyone who needs to access it should know how to find whatever they need.  So keep it simple, intuitive and smart.

For more detailed information, check out this cool .pdf from the McGraw-Hill Higher Education website.

11 thoughts on “Alphabetical Filing Rules! And Here are Some Rules, Too

  1. Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
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  2. Hi, I think your site could possibly be having browser
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  3. Plant Management and Planters Welding is actually wrong. Plant is first because it is a finished word. Space always comes before more letters.

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