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When ordering these two names of places, which is first? Why?

Newark, New York

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

In traditional alphabetization, Newark precedes New York because spaces and punctuation are ignored (and 'a' precedes 'y').

In indexes prepared by computer, it is common to see New York precede Newark because a simple approach to sorting in a computer program is to directly compare the strings of characters, in which case the 'a' of Newark falls in the same (fourth) position as the blank between New and York, and blank compares less than 'a'.

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The indexer needs to prepare a style sheet, or work from one supplied by the publisher. Questions like this one, where two or more options exist, need to be settled, then applied consistently throughout the rest of the index. Another case occurs with prefixes, e.g., "Harold von Brown," "Miguel del Ruiz." Numbers and measurements present many more novel and puzzling quandries. The style sheet rides to the rescue. – The Raven Apr 24 '11 at 11:04

Newark comes first.

N - N

E - E

W - W

A - Y (a comes first in the alphabet)

R - O

K - R

  • K
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And I learned the opposite: space precedes all letters, so that "New" and "New York" both precede "Newark". This emphasizes the need for the style sheet. – GEdgar Jul 5 '11 at 19:39
@GEdgar: style sheet? Do you mean like CSS or like a human document to follow? – Mitch Jul 5 '11 at 23:25
Yes, by "style sheet" I mean for example a document issued by a publication to be followed by everyone writing for it, so that it will have a consistent style. – GEdgar Jul 6 '11 at 14:44

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