How to Alphabetize

Your teacher may ask you to alphabetize a list of vocabulary words. Make sure you know the rules for alphabetizing before you begin!

Note: You may also be interested in Alphabetizing a List in Microsoft Word.

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A-B-C Order

To alphabetize a list of words or names, you start by placing them in A-B-C order according to the first letter of each word. It's handy to say the alphabet to yourself silently when placing words in alphabetical order.

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If the First Letters Are the Same

If you have two or more words that begin with the same letter, you will look at the second letter. Ask yourself: which of the second letters comes first in the alphabet? If the first and second letters are the same, go to your third letters. 

The “A” words shown here are alphabetized according to the second letter. They are in order using the letters P-T-X.

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Alphabetizing Titles

When alphabetizing titles, you won’t consider the words a, an, and the as part of the title. You will place those words at the end of a title, and set them off with a comma.

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Words That Are Similar

If you find that two words are spelled the very same way at the beginning, but one stops and the other continues, the shorter comes first. Why? Because a “blank” space is alphabetized before a letter space. In the list above, B-E-E comes before B-E-E-S.