Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

Putting APA References in Alphabetical Order

You’ve finished your paper and organized your references. Now you’re ready to alphabetize the entries in your APA 6 format reference list. So, that’s as easy as ABC… or is it? Wait! Not so fast! You have three separate works written by the same author and two articles written by people with the same last name, but different first names. Maybe this isn’t as easy as it seems at first glance. Take a deep breath and follow the basic “letter by letter” alphabetizing format.

Citation generator

Author Surname

The author’s surname is first, followed by his/her initials. Alphabetize the reference list letter-by-letter.


Ring, A. A.
Ring, J.
Ringing, A. B.

Note: Nothing precedes something. That’s why you place Ring before Ringing.


This surname/given name format is commonly used in the U.S.; however, in other countries, it may be different. If you don’t know how a particular author’s name should be formatted, look for other publications or resources, such as the author’s web page, to figure it out.

Same Surname, Different First Names

When you have authors with the exact same surname, but different first names, alphabetize based on their first names.


Lopez, G.
Lopez, J.

Note: Lopes precedes Lopez. The surnames are spelled differently and are alphabetized accordingly.

Several Works by the Same Author

It’s common to have several works cited by the same author, who may be an expert in his/her field. When that happens, place them in order by publication date, from oldest to newest.


Hayman, D. (2001).
Hayman, D. (2005).

Single Author vs. Multiple Authors

Works with single authors precede works by multiple authors, if they are from the same year.


Hayman, D. (2001).
Hayman, D.,& Forrest, R. (2001).

Author Prefixes

Student alphabetizing APA Reference List

If the prefix is commonly part of a surname, use it for alphabetizing.


De Vries, A.
Duncan, D.

Mc and Mac

Using the letter by letter alphabetization system, Mac comes before Mc.


MacDonald, R.
McDonald, A. J.


Ignore apostrophes, spaces and capitals when you are organizing your APA reference list.


Damner, J.
D’Arcy, A.

Group Authors

Organizations and government agencies are alphabetized by the organization or agency’s title spelled out in full.


American Medical Association (not AMA)
Central Intelligence Agency (not CIA)

The parent body precedes the department.


University of New Mexico, Department of Anthropology

No Author

If there is no author, move the title to the author position. Then, alphabetize it by the first significant word in the title.


Coating, M.
Code of Warfare, The

If a work is signed by Anonymous, then spell it out and alphabetize it as though it was real name.


Agry, P.
Avery, E.

Legal Cases

Alphabetize legal cases by the case name.


Damner, J.
Lessard v. Santos
Lessard v. Schmidt
Lopez, G.

As Easy as ABC

Now you have a good idea of how to alphabetize your APA reference list. Go ahead and give it a try. Just remember to follow the basic letter by letter system and you’ll do great with your APA citations.

Related Articles:

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?