Alphabetizing References in Chicago format

Alphabetizing references in Chicago format is actually easier than it sounds, as long as you understand the basic guideline of sorting a list by alphabets you should be fine. However, you might be good at arranging a list by alphabets, but you could run into hyphenated words, and you would be wondering what you would need to do.

Therefore, it is important to understand the basic rules of citation in Chicago format as it will help you to order your reference list. (Also learn about alphabetizing references in APA and MLA format)

pointing hand Rules to Alphabetize Your References in Chicago Format

Chicago format has some specific guidelines for alphabetizing the entries in the reference list. They are:

  • Use the author’s last name

In Chicago format, you are expected to alphabetize using the author’s last name. If the source has more than one author, then you are expected to use the authors whose name is listed first to alphabetize. However, remember the names of all other authors must be included in the citation.

  • Editors name

This is used in the case of some sources whereby the editor is the main attribution listed instead of an author. In this case, the editor’s last name would be used to alphabetize the citation entry in the reference list.

  • No author

When a source has no author or editor, the title of the book will be used to alphabetize the book in place of the author’s last name.

  • Works by the same author

Having to cite one author with multiple works, the works must be arranged in chronological order according to their date. After the first entry with the author’s name, the subsequent entries should begin with “3-em dash” in place of repeated author’s name (learn about em dash).

For example

James, John, (2002)

—, (2004)

—, (2007)

pointing hand Steps to Successfully Alphabetize Your References in Chicago Format

There are steps you can take to order your reference list in ascending alphabetic order successfully. They are as follows

  • Go letter by letter

The first letter in a citation general indicates where it goes in your ordered bibliography. For example, if the entry starts with James, the “J” tells you that that citation entry will go with the “J”s on your list. When you get to the “J”s, you will continue to move letter by letter until you figure out where it fits in with other names.

For example




  • Look at the author’s first name

In the event even that you have two authors with the same last names, then you would have to use their first name to alphabetize the entries.

For example

Smith, Cynthia

Smith, John

  • Hyphenated names as one name

You are expected to treat hyphenated names as one name. Therefore, if you have a hyphenated name, you are expected to use the first letter of the name to alphabetize the entry. You would keep going through the letter of the letters in the name even after the hyphen till you find the right fit.

For example

If you have the name John-Meyers, the name should be alphabetized under the name John, and the shorter name must come first.

When you re alphabetizing your reference list, you are expected to ignore the punctuation marks and spaces as they have no bearing in alphabetizing. You will just have to continue going letter by letter to alphabetize.

For example

The name Mc Donalds should be treated as Mcdonalds for alphabetizing purposes.

  • Ignore unimportant words

There are times where you have to alphabetize an entry by title. In this case, you are expected to skip the unnecessary words at the beginning, such as “The,” “An,” or “a.”

For example

If the title of the article is “The man that has no responsibilities.” The entry should be placed in the “M”s because of the Man.

The reason for this is because there are a lot of titles that begin with the, an, or a, and it would not be okay just to file all of them in the same sections.

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