(With a nod to How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. I did not like the self-illustrated book but I loved the DVD.)


You can make it easier to find files on your computer or smartphone if you structure your filenames according to how you are going to use them. Your filenames should tell you all you need to know about their content so you don’t have to open them to find out.

It’s all about dates

The international date format is yyyy-mm-dd. If you use year-month-day order in your filenames, your computer or smartphone will display them in chronological order.

I leave out the hyphens to shorten the filenames slightly but you don’t have to. (When you are scrolling through your files, the column width accommodates the widest filename so you will see more columns on your screen if your filenames are shorter.)

Plan your filenames

Let’s consider four types of files that editors might need to name:

  • documents to edit;
  • invoices to clients;
  • supporting documents for tax returns; and
  • minutes and agendas (I have to file them now that I am on the PEG Exco as Website Coordinator).

Always consider the subject, purpose and date of the document when you assign its filename.

1. Documents to edit

In the table below, the left column shows how people often name their files – it’s difficult to tell which is the latest document; the centre column shows a better way of naming files; and the column on the right shows my recommended way of naming files.


Fig. 1 Different ways of naming files

Fig. 1 Different ways of naming files © Anne Denniston


Note that the final document in the rightmost column has a simple title as well as the latest date. When you are looking for the final version, go for that one.

2. Invoices to clients

When I invoice my clients, I want to know their name, their reference number, my reference number, the amount, and the date I invoiced them. What order should I use for all that?

Let’s see some alternatives in the table below for Mr Smith, Mrs Naidoo and Simon Tshabalala. They didn’t give me reference numbers so I used the type of document instead.


Fig. 2 Filing by name, reference number, amount and date

Fig. 2 Filing by name, reference number, amount and date © Anne Denniston


See how they line up (or don’t)? If you make the items in your filenames line up, they’re easier to read and it’s easier to find the one you are looking for. Perhaps you guessed that the last one is what I use because I like the way everything lines up, except the last element, which is not a standard length (unless you want to say Smi-Pro, Gov-Dis and Tsh-Rep, which is only for really OCD filers).

Note that I separated adjacent figure elements with double spaces.

I use Excel for my invoices and keep quotes, invoices and statements all in the same workbook, but I make separate PDFs to email or upload. The PDFs would look something like the following. When I Save-As, I only have to change the first element.


Fig. 3 Filing PDFs

Fig. 3 Filing PDFs © Anne Denniston


When I email these documents, the client can see at a glance what they are about.

3. Supporting documents for tax returns

When I copy the documents into my current SARS folder, I just change the first element of the filename.


Fig. 4 Filing for tax returns

Fig. 4 Filing for tax returns © Anne Denniston


4. Minutes and agendas

Some people like to keep all agendas together, and all minutes together – but it would be hard to find their supporting documents if you could not remember what they were!


Fig. 5 Filing of meeting minutes and agendas

Fig. 5 Filing of meeting minutes and agendas © Anne Denniston


I like all the documents for one meeting to be together, without putting them all into separate folders, so I file them by the date of the meeting. After I receive the final versions, I delete the drafts.


Fig. 6 Filing final versions of files

Fig. 6 Filing final versions of files © Anne Denniston


Now you can fly your dragon in formation. HAPPY FILING!



Photo credits: Laptop by 377053 from Pixabay; dragon by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PEG.

About Anne Denniston

Anne Denniston trained as a librarian but then started editing agricultural reports, loved it, and so became a freelance editor of all sorts of documents. For three years, she edited for students who attended Exactica’s dissertation courses. For 11+ years, she edited audit reports for the Gauteng Provincial Government.

About PEG

The Professional Editors’ Guild (PEG) is a non-profit company (NPC) in South Africa. Since moving to online activities in March 2020, PEG has been able to offer members across South Africa, and internationally, access to an extensive online webinar programme. Continuing professional development remains a key offering and the first PEG Accreditation Test was administered in August 2020 to benchmark excellence in the field of editing.