I'm a non-native English speaker and I've been speaking and writing in English ever since I was a kid.

But one thing that really irks me, is a certain practice done by some people when sorting names, instead of using: "The Lord of the Rings"

They use: "Lord of the Rings, The"

Is that kind of sorting even correct? In which cases sorting names in such way is acceptable or not? Is it just supposed to make it easier to find something? If so, such practice ends up failing most of the cases, especially for non-native speakers.

  • 4
    Yes, that's to ease searching. Potentially, there are lots of entries starting with "the" and it's easier to search based on the first word than the second one. – alwayslearning Feb 4 '17 at 5:26

I was a professional library cataloguer for over thirty years. It is certainly correct to index a book title by the first significant word, ignoring any initial articles. No-one wants to look through long lists of 'A's and 'The's. A computerised catalogue can be programmed to do this automatically, but in a printed index the article is sometimes moved to the end of the title as in your example. I would have expected this to be standard practice in any language that uses initial articles. Maybe your native language doesn't?

  • It’s certainly standard practice in the languages that I have experience with cataloguing and alphabetising in. Although I have to say that it is more common, in my experience, to alphabetise by the first non-article word, rather than by the first significant word. The ‘significant word’ concept is used a lot when capitalising, and apart from articles, it also excludes prepositions; but I would expect On the Origin of Species to come before, not after, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 4 '17 at 11:07
  • So would I, but that's because I'm used to word-by-word alphabetisation rather than letter-by-letter. (See allegrotechindexing.com/news006.htm ) – Kate Bunting Feb 5 '17 at 15:41
  • Oh, I didn't mean the difference between e and space (on vs one). Bad example. Better example: I would expect On the Origin of Species to come before, not after Order of the Phoenix (one of the Harry Potter books). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 5 '17 at 17:32

Another reason is that it is quite likely that someone looking for a title is not sure whether or not there is an initial article or not before the first significant word. Such a person will find the title under that significant word in both cases.

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