The order to file alphabetically by name is: last name, first name or initial, then middle name or initial.
1) To get started first determine how many records will be put into the system. This will determine how much shelving you need.
(Read my article “Questions to Ask Before Choosing Shelving for Your Files”) for help determining what type of shelving to buy.
2) Then, divide your shelving into 26 sections. Studies have determined the percentage of how many people have a last name starting with each letter of the alphabet. By using the results of these studies, you can estimate what percentage of the file room each letter will use.
File Room Alpha Breakdown
(A=3.2%) (B=9.7%) (C=8.0%) (D=4.9%) (E=2.2%) (F=3.8%)
(G=4.9%) (H=7.8%) (I=0.4%) (J=2.6%) (K=3.6%) (L=4.5%)
(M=9.3%) (N=1/7%) (O=1.3%) (P=4.5%) (Q=0.2%) (R=4.8%)
(S=10.2%) (T=3.4%) (U=0.4%) (V=1.0%) (W=6.8%) (X=0.1%)
Each section will reflect the information provided above. An easy way to designate each section is to write each letter on a piece of white tape or a blank white label. You can stick this lettered label at the start of each section.
3) Put the files in the correct section based on the first letter of the person’s last name.
(Here is a handy tool that will automatically alphabetize lists.)
4) Next, go the second letter of the surname, then the third letter, etc..
Some additional rules are:
-Surnames with prefixes (Mac, Mc., etc.), are filed as if they were one word.
-How about if the two last names are the same? Then go to the first letter of the first name.
-When someone has a title, put the title at the end of their name.
-Any abbreviations in a name should be alphabetized as
if they were spelled out (St. – saint)
-Ignore hyphens and file compound names as one unit.
For maximum efficiency-color code your alpha system.
Please share any alphabetic filing stories you might have!
Here is a great place to find supplies for your alpha filing system.