f all the questions we are asked on a day to day basis, most are related
directly to alphabetic filing rules. This is for a number of reasons -
first of all, alphabetic filing requires no master index and is usually
chosen as a filing method for small records departments. Consequently the
system has flaws when not implemented properly (ie. rules are not made
obvious to all employees), and usually the size of the system is an
indicator of the companies filing policies and training.
Most small companies do not institute a formal filing course as part of
their hiring process.
So, the following filing rules - which we find to be very helpful, tend to
be the most sought after in our industry. They are simply a template for
your business, and can be modified - so long as the modifications are made
known to all employees. We recommend posting them directly on your filing
For a quick lesson on alphabetic filing, including purpose, advantages,
disadvantages and contrast over other filing methods, check out
Guidelines to follow:
One strategy would be to follow how a computer organizes numbers and
letters. Computers place numbers before letters. Computers also put nothing
before something. In other words, a computer sorting the numbers 1 through
10, as if they were text would place the number 10 before 2. Consistency in
number format is required to keep the numbers in order. So to get the number
2 to be sorted before the number 10 preceding the 2 by a zero is required.
(01, 02, 03, 04, ... 10 )
A second strategy would be to follow how the phone book is organized.
I used to feel that this was very effective, but I have found of late, that
it seems to break its own rules. It appears to follow the concept of forget
all spaces and treat all words, names as one big word and organize the names
that way. Yet at other times it does not.
A third strategy would be to follow the rules as set out by ARMA
(Association of Records Managers and Administrators). After all they have
published a guideline consisting of 40 pages of rules and examples. If you
wish to receive a copy, ARMA can be reached at http://www.arma.org/. I
however feel their rules are far too difficult to follow for most
applications. After all Rule #3 is to keep it simple.
Rule #1 These are rules, so treat them as such.
Rule #2 If you want to break the rules, let all know of
changes and add them to the rules.
Rule #3 Keep the rules simple, so all can follow. This is
why it is best not to make special considerations for "this" and something
else for "that".
Rule #4 Nothing comes before something.
ie. "Johnson"comes before
"Johnson, A." which comes before
This rule also means Initials precede names.
Rule #5 Has two options.
A) Numbers come before letters.
ie. "123 Company" comes before
B) Treat numbers as if spelled out, "123" becomes "One Two
ie. "ABC Company" comes before
"456 Incorporated" which comes before
Rule #6 Disregard Hyphens, Periods, Co