I am processing and need to sort a list of (primarily) song titles in both English, French and some Spanish. When sorting English, I must ignore the words A, An, The. So 'A Silent Night With You' is sorted as 'Silent Night With You A'.

Please could somebody briefly explain the rules I must follow for the French language? For example what are all the words I must ignore? Very briefly are there any capitalization rules I should follow, also?

For example, I have 'A La Folie', 'Tes Yeux', Toute, Pour, Ella.

Help would be much appreciated, Andy

  • A title is... a title. Chosen by the author. Hence each part of it gets a meaning, an importance and represents the author's will. I would personally not dare suppress / reorder whatever of what is understood being an artistic choice.
    – MC68020
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 20:32
  • @aCOSwt A comment seemingly uninformed by common sorting practice. This is both a pre-digital practice ("see Maldives, The") and a modern UX trick done to avoid clustering of the data around what become the information-poor letters L and U. If I'm scrolling through my list looking for a song and I can initially cut most of the pool by 26 instead of 2 or 3 I'll get there faster. No need to ignore the existence of the strategy for an imagined artistic benefit :p
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 11:29
  • @LukeSawczak : I can understand that. However, I would not make the decision (or leave to a machine the decision) that whatever part of the message of an artist in, as you write it : uninformative. Going that way, simply cut a quarter of Klein's Monochrome orange out... it'll be easier to put away... ;-) That being said, the point is : I would not personally look for Roi Lear, Plus que lente... in any list. Fortunatly for me... the IMSLP ( imslp.org ) agrees.
    – MC68020
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 11:47
  • @aCOSwt Nevertheless, it's the same principle in action when they put surnames before first names, the set of surnames being larger and hence more useful for sorting! Isn't a name just a name, not to be tampered with? :p Mais sérieux, I would say that skipping the "L" is a job I'd entrust to a machine. But seeing the comments below it does seem like this might not be as normal in French as I find it in English.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 12:05

1 Answer 1


When I look at how some song titles are sorted on Wikipedia (just one source), it seems that it can be similar to English: the "déterminant article" of French are ignored when sorted, and mentioned in parentheses after the rest of the title. Those include:

Le, la, les, l'

Un, une, des

This helps dispatching the title between many first letters, because otherwise a large number of titles will start with L or U. However, this is not the case of all lists that I've found, so keeping the title intact is also good.

For the capitalization, you will usually only capitalize the first word (except for "noms propres" that are always capitalized anyway.)

  • According to Wikipedia, while definite articles (le, la, les...) are ignored when sorting titles, undefinite ones are not. See fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – jlliagre
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 23:24
  • As I've said there is no absolute rule. If you look at how the song titles are sorted for Michel Sardou on Wikipedia, fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_des_chansons_de_Michel_Sardou the undefined article are also moved at the end. For me it is more logical to do so for all "articles" (or never do so), but I couldn't find any authentic source of sorting. I would say that the more items you have in the list, the more you should exclude common words, but I would keep the original titles if the list is very short.
    – radouxju
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 7:36

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