Filing is an age-old system that makes it easier to find documents. These documents can include letters, memos, financial records, reports and other forms of correspondence. To achieve a coherent and efficient filing system, you must employ proper procedures. Even in today's electronic age, businesses and home offices still need to maintain paper files.


Group your files into categories. The main category will be the primary heading, representing all the other files that will be placed under it (subcategories). Depending on the scope of the category, it can encompass the entire filing cabinet drawer. For example:

Category: Payroll Registers 2014 Subcategories: Payroll Register January 2014 Payroll Register February 2014 Payroll Register March 2014

Continue your subcategories through to the end of the year. If your category will fill an entire drawer, make a label and place it on the exterior of the drawer; label your subcategory folders and place them inside the drawer. Use hanging folders for your categories when you have several categories for one drawer and place the labeled subcategory file folders inside them.

Filing Rules

The two basic filing rules are alphabetical and date filing. When performing alphabetical filing, file according to the letter of the alphabet. For date filing, file your most recent files on top. There are several rules applying to alphabetical filing.

When filing by name, file by the first letter (i.e., Langston Construction, Parkinson Carwash, Rivers & Associates, Thomson & Company).

When the first name is identical, file by the second letter (i.e., Ace, Adele, Angie, August).

File by last name (i.e., Connor, Luke; Denver, Marion; Fullerton, JD; Schuster, AP).

File by initial when surnames are identical (i.e., Garrison, DC; Garrison, EF; Garrison, GH; Garrison, YB).

Use the first prefix letter when the surname contains a prefix (i.e., de la Hoya, GU; de Mark, DS; van der Roy, FH; van Under, PE).

File by the first surname when there are two (i.e., Anderson & Leiberman; Cypress & Florsheim).

File Mac, Mc, M' files as Mac; file St and Saint as Saint (i.e., MacIntyre, McKnight, M'Clever; or Saint Paul's, St. Mary's).

File Maintenance

Once your filing system is neatly in place, you must maintain it. Have a designated tray for all documents to be filed; do not keep them lying around. Do not pack the folders or drawers with files; this makes it harder to extract them. Try to do some filing at least once per day. If you run a small company, do it once a week. If you have files that are worn from use, make new files for them. Put unwanted paper in the recycling bin or shredder. If your files are confidential, always remember to lock the drawers.