Electronic Document Naming Conventions: Date Standards

It is highly recommended for all electronic documents to include a date as an element in the document name. Dates can be standardized in the international date standard numerical format with underscores(_) between year_month_day, YYYY_MM_DD. This format allows ease of sorting and comparing files by date and prevents confusion with other date formats.

The date should be defined by business needs and what is most useful for retrieval purposes. The date used could be the creation date of the file, the date the file was modified or finalized, or a date of central importance to the file.  For example, a date on a presentation would be the date the presentation was given, or a date on an audit report would be the day the audit was conducted.  When files and documents are moved from one computer to a server or other cloud-based systems the system assigns a new ‘creation date’. This new date will change to the date that data was moved to the new local hardware or system and not keep the original ‘created date’ of the document. Thus the creation date can be lost if not recorded in the document naming convention. Further, when emailing documents, it is helpful for a user to see a date associated with a document within the name, especially if there are multiple versions associated with a document.

To learn more how to organize computer documents, download the free report How to Organize Your Computer Documents.

Electronic Document Naming Conventions: General Guidance

Standard document naming conventions are important to facilitate better searching, access and retrieval of files and documents. It also allows for sorting of files in a logical sequence either alphabetically or numerically.

Because files are arranged alphabetically or numerically it is important to name documents with the classifier that most users will think of first to access that particular document. Ideally document naming conventions should include at the minimum the following information:

• Title or Topic

• Type of Document (i.e. Agenda, Briefing, Form, Template, Minutes, Report, etc.)

• Date

• Version Number, if applicable

Avoid using words such as “general or miscellaneous” in file name conventions. Be sure to make naming conventions clear, complete and avoid abbreviations when possible.  The document name should include all necessary descriptive information independent of the file name where it is stored or located. This is essential for users to search for documents by topics and or key words. At the end of specified document naming conventions users can add additional adjectives or words that further describe that document.

To learn more how to organize computer documents, download the free report How to Organize Your Computer Documents.