I'm adding on to an advanced search screen, the standard few sort orders: by date, by name, etc.

I'm just wondering what the more commonly used/accepted way of phrasing it would be. "Chronologically" sounds more technical, but "by date" is a bit clearer, I think.

Are there circumstances which would influence your use of one over the other?

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    Who are your users? Commented May 22, 2013 at 13:54
  • @vincebowdren A small number of people with admin access. Technical ability could vary, but there is in-app help and we do a bit of training for the application. The other side of the application is data gathering out in the field, and this search is to narrow down that data and show pre-created reports as well as the raw data (lists of survey answers or checklists).
    – Gray
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 14:08
  • 2
    If your users are all in a particular technical field where 'chronologically' is in frequent use, that might be better; but otherwise, probably 'by date' as per the answers below. Commented May 22, 2013 at 14:16
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    Huge 'upvote' for @vincebowdren, this should always be the firs thing you think about. Which term is better known to your clients/users? As good as all these answers below are, none of them seem to take into account the target user. Commented May 23, 2013 at 11:05

8 Answers 8


"Sort by date" is probably the most common option, but it's not the way that most people speak. Where possible, I prefer speaking like a human (as opposed to an engineer), and so I would prefer using something like:

Newest first or Oldest first

  • This is a great alternative that didn't even cross my mind.
    – Gray
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 14:09
  • 4
    +1 I absolutely agree with Newest First or Last, but would disagree with the use of "Sort by newest". As a native English speaker (admittedly an engineer), this doesn't readily state its intention if you allow forward/reverse ordering. "newest" implies newest records on top while sort by implies ability to reverse this ordering. I would prefer "Sort by Date" over "Sort by Newest". My 2 cents Commented May 22, 2013 at 20:19
  • @AK4749 Fair point. I'll remove "sort by newest".
    – JohnGB
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 2:18
  • I'm sorry but I strongly dislike this answer in context of the question. I like the functionality of "Show: Newest first" but if you want to present sorting options like user Gray intends to then this is asking for a different type of functionality and as you corrected you cannot "Sort by newest".
    – John
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 6:02
  • @John that depends on the data types that he has. If for example the date doesn't correspond to how hew something is, this may not work. But if the concept of date is tied to when a record was created, then it works well.
    – JohnGB
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 6:48

Ideally, I would go with 'by date' since it is more accessible. Even people with English as their non-primary language understand the word date easily, where as chronological might be a hit or a miss.


I think you have two options:

The first one is to sort database entries (chronologially, alphabetically, numerically) and the second one is to sort a list by a column value (data object attribute).

It might depend on the amount or type of options you are going to present.

In the first case you would have the text "Sort" followed by a dropdown with the options:
- chronologically
- alphabetically
- numerically

In the second case you would have the text "Sort by" followed by a dropdown with the options:
- date
- name
- etc.

I would try to not mix the two. And as a technical person I'd prefer "by date" as well.

  • +1 for clarifying the difference. I would add that in the first case, it can be ambiguous about which column you are using for sorting; there might be a number of text attributes all available for sorting alphabetically. That confirms my opinion that 'By date' is most likely best. Commented May 22, 2013 at 14:14

My pick is Sort by Date because it is

  • easy to understand
  • is common and used by Operating Systems and
  • doesn't arise any further questions in your mind and you know what it is.

I would agree that "by date" is the best for the following reasons: - Shorter and simpler: looks cleaner and takes less time to read the words - Users will not have a miss, specially because "by date" is the most commonly used term

Even though some words sound better in terms of being more elegant or more correct, for buttons and elements that trigger actions in the web the language used should be simple, direct and using as less words as possible.


For a non-native English speaker, the word "Chronologically" might not even be known. "By Date" is definitely better.

  • 1
    It's not an everyday sort of word, but it is of Greek origin :) It's "cronologicamente" in Italian (using Google Translate), "chronologicznie" in Polish, "cronológicamente" in Spanish, "chronologiquement" in French, "kronologisk" in Norwegian etc. My point is not that it should be widely used in UI, I agree that it's not a very good choice. My point is that - contrary to what you suggested - being a non-native English speaker doesn't really much change the likelihood of being familiar with this word Commented May 29, 2013 at 6:30

Sort by Date - Definitely!

Why? - simple and easy - almost everyone understands 'Date' - takes less screen space with just 'Date' and an arrow indicating the Sort - familiar (+intuitive?)

Why not chronological? - will take up more screen space unless you chose to abbreviate which adds to confusion - not a very common word - technical - just because you are training and have help and documentation is no reason to complicate the UI and interaction

I would have suggested chronological if your target audience and application dealt with history and science related data, but not for normal computer files.


Tthe word 'chronologically' is not only too long, but too technical and advanced for most people to understand. You want to make things easy and that includes the choice of words you use on your UI.

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