Alphabetical order

system whereby strings of characters are placed in order by alphabet

Alphabetical order is a way to sort (organize) a list. It helps a reader to find a name or a title in the list. It is done by following the standard (usual) order of letters in an alphabet. Some lists in alphabetical order were used during the early Roman Empire. It became commonplace after the Renaissance.

Sorting things in English is done using the Roman alphabet. Different languages have different rules for sorting. Note also, that there are different ways to sort numbers, and special characters, such as letters with diacritics. German has the letters ä,ö,ü, and ß.

  • Option one: the letter with diacritics is treated the same way as the one without, ä is treated as a, ö as o and ü as u. (Known as DIN 5007-1, usually used for encyclopedias)
  • Option two: the letter is treated the same as some replacement: ä is replaced by ae, ö be oe, ü by ue, and ß by ss (Known as DIN 5007-2, used for phone books)

Note that these may be different by language: Danish also has a letter ä, but sorts it after z, and not treated like a as in German.

EnglishEdit

A list of items like Eric, Lydia, Andrea, and Bob is organized by their first letter. A comes before B, and B comes before E, and E comes before L in the alphabet. When alphabetical order is used:

  • Andrea
  • Bob
  • Eric
  • Lydia

If many words have the same first letter, they are sorted by their second letters.

  • Larry
  • Leonard
  • Linda
  • Lydia

After that, the third and fourth letters are used until the whole list is sorted.

The words a, an and the are ignored. Sometimes they are written at the end, after a comma. Spaces and hyphens ( - ) are ignored, too.

  • A Long Day's Journey Into Night
  • The Long Goodbye
  • Longhand: A Writer's Notebook
  • The Long Road Home
  • Long Voyage Back
  • The Long Walk

A formula can be used to systematically ignore a, an and the. For Microsoft Excel, it would be:

=IF(LEFT(A2,2)="A ",RIGHT(A2,LEN(A2)-2),IF(LEFT(A2,3)= "An ",RIGHT(A2,LEN(A2)-3),IF(LEFT(A2,4)="The ",RIGHT(A2, LEN(A2)-4),A2)))

That can also be listed like this:

  • Long Day's Journey Into Night, A
  • Long Goodbye, The
  • Longhand: A Writer's Notebook
  • Long Road Home, The
  • Long Voyage Back
  • Long Walk, The

Names are usually ordered by Family name, not given name.

  • Gene Hackman
  • Tom Hanks
  • Katharine Hepburn
  • Jennifer Love Hewitt

Names are often written with the last names first.

  • Hackman, Gene
  • Hanks, Tom
  • Hepburn, Katharine
  • Hewitt, Jennifer Love

Numbers can be sorted in two ways. Sometimes, they are listed in order from smallest to largest. This is the normal way to sort numbers.

  • 1
  • 3
  • 9
  • 18
  • 27
  • 81

Other times, they can be sorted as if they were normal, spelled-out words. This way is often used for numbers in titles.

  • Eighteen
  • Eighty-one
  • Nine
  • One
  • Three
  • Twenty-seven