Naming Document Copies - PDFs

General Principles

Copies of documents, created for legal proceedings, should generally be in PDF format and be named with the date of the document, in yyyy-mm-dd format, together with a concise description of the document which is sufficient (together with the document date) to enable anyone to quickly identify the document. The concise description should include an indication of the type of document - letter, agreement, conveyance, etc. - followed, particularly for common document types, by some further brief identifying information, as in the example below:

2018-07-31   Letter Smith to Jones 

There should be one PDF per document containing all the pages of the document
  • There should not be one PDF per page (unless, of course, it is a single page document)
  • Each PDF should contain only one document

exceptions: (1) for a letter with enclosures, the PDF should contain all pages of the letter followed by all pages of the enclosure; (2) for an email with attachments the single PDF should contain all pages of the email followed by all pages of each attachment; (3) some legal documents such as Exhibits will include a number of documents organised in a particular way with legal pages preceding them. In this case it is important that the legal document as a whole should be in a single PDF.   

Descriptions for different kinds of documents

If a document is a letter, the word Letter is the obvious word to describe it and the names of sender are recipient are the obvious further identifying information to use in the description, but for less common document types you may not have come across before it can be less easy to decide what description to use and the guidance below may help.    

Formal Legal Documents

It should be easy to find the document type (Deed, Agreement, Particulars  of Claim, Defence, Grant, etc.) for a formal legal document because it should appear prominently on the first page of the document. It is not always easy to know what further information to include in the concise description but, because there will probably only be a few documents of each type, simply naming the PDF with the document type alone is often sufficient when combined with the date

2018-06-22   Agreement    

but for witness statements (and statutory declarations) you should include at least the surname of the person who made and signed the statement:

2018-05-09   Witness Statement of John Smith 

In the case of a document involving registered land the registered title number should always be included in the file name:

2018-04-15 AB123456 Transfer    

In matters concerning registered land there will probably be quite a number of Transfers but, even then, because land transactions are not very frequent simply naming a document Transfer is, together with the title number and date, normally sufficient. If, however, there are two different Transfers on the same date (e.g. if land is bought and part of it sold off, simultaneously) then more information should be given - e.g.

2018-04-15   AB123456 Transfer Smith to Jones    

2018-04-15   AB123456 Transfer of Part Jones to Jenkins   

Formal Business Documents

Business documents  which have a degree of formality about them, such as Purchase Orders and Invoices, will have a reference number which should  be included in the concise description:

2018-03-09   Purchase Order AB1207

2018-03-22   Invoice 100765



Traditionally not more than one letter is sent by a given sender to a given recipient on any particular day (because the sender must wait for a reply in the post before sending a further letter) so a letter would simply be named e.g. 

2018-02-25   Letter John Smith to Paul Jones   

If you were the sender of the email or letter you might instinctively be inclined to name it just 2018-02-25 Letter sent to Jones but it is important not to to this but to always give the name of sender and addressee, so that the name will be meaningful for everyone concerned with litigation, otherwise you will end up having to rename the PDF later on.

It is not normally necessary to use a name which summarises the content of a letter and generally the date and names of sender and recipient are sufficient. In fact generally you should not summarise the letter's contents in the PDF file name because it should be possible for someone who has only the PDF name (which may appear on a list of documents you subsequently provide) to easily identify, out of all the copies of letters they already have, which letter is being referred to just by glancing at the letter and without having to read it and mentally summarise its contents. If two letters are sent by the same sender to the same recipient on the same day some simple easily identifiable additional distinguishing feature such a a different Our Ref number should be added in brackets. If (but only if) there is no obvious simple distinguishing feature like a different reference number, you can use a two or three word summary of what each letter is about to distinguish them like this:

2018-02-25   Letter John Smith to Paul Jones (details of property)

2018-02-25   Letter John Smith to Paul Jones (enclosing contract)

Any such two or three word summary of the content of the letter should be non-contentious: its purpose is just to identify each letter easily, not to make any kind of argument. So don't put details of awful property or enclosing unfair contract.   



For emails it is essential to include a time, as well as a date, in the PDF name as there will often be several emails between the same parties in the course of a day. Emails are normally named like this:

2018-01-05   Email at 22.44 John Smith to Paul Jones

However it is recognised that because in many cases there are a large number of emails, often an app is used to generate PDF copies in bulk and the PDFs generated may use a different naming convention from the above which may nevertheless be acceptable if the app cannot be configured to generate a name in exactly the above format. For example, depending on the app the PDFs may be generated with names like this:

2018-01-29 22.44.31 - RE: Our meeting tomorrow

The minimum requirement is that the PDF name should commence with the date the email was sent in year, month, day format, followed by the time in hour, minute, second format, so that the emails appear in chronological order. The time zone used for the time should be consistent - i.e. all emails should be named with a date and time using the same time zone. If most emails were sent and received within the UK then the local time in the UK should be used for all emails including the minority of emails sent and/or received in other time zones. Alternatively GMT can be used rather than the local time but the same zone, whatever it is, should be used consistently. 

Each email should be a single PDF containing all the pages of the the email message ("body") followed by all the pages of all attachments.  

Text Messages

A PDF copy of text messages will typically include, in a single PDF, all the text messages exchanged between two people on a single day, and the PDF would be named like this:

2018-11-03   Texts between John Smith and Paul Jones  

Other Document Types

Where a document does not have its document type actually printed on it, there are no rigid rules about exactly what word you should use to describe it but you should try to use a concise name which most people would instantly understand, avoiding less well known abbreviations. Here are some examples:


Bank Credit  

Bank Statement 


Claim Form

Particulars of Claim


Notice of Hearing

Directions Questionnaire – Claimant



For land documents the document type will generally be one of the following:



Application 1st Reg                    (Application Form for first registration of land - e.g. form FR1 or 1B)
Application to Change                (Application Form to change an already registered title - e.g. form AP1)
Application Form                        (Any other type of application form)









LLC Search                                (Certificate of Search of Register of Local Land Charges) 


Statement of Truth

Statutory Declaration



Transfer of Part                             

Note 1: a plan which forms part of a Conveyance, Transfer or other document should be combined with the Conveyance, Transfer, etc. in a single PDF named with a document type of Conveyance, Transfer, etc. A document type of Plan is generally only used where there is an unaccompanied plan.     

Note 2: a List of Documents form (form DL or A13) accompanying an Application Form can be combined with the Application Form in a single PDF named with a document type of Application Form or can be separate using a document type of List of Documents.  


Non-digital photos should be named like this

1998-06-18 Photo of Brookwood garden

If the exact date a photo was taken is unknown it should still start with a date in yyyy-mm-dd format to ensure that it appears in the approximately correct order but words should be added to the end of the PDF name to make clear that this is not intended to be the exact date it was taken 

1998-07-01 Photo of Brookwood garden - circa summer 1998

1992-01-01 Photo of Brookwood garden - circa 1992


What should I do about exhibits and legal documents with appendices?

Some legal documents will include a number of documents organised in a particular way with legal pages preceding them. Examples are an Exhibit (the first page of which will be a signed frontsheet) and a Particulars of Claim document with an Appendix.

Particulars of Claim - Appendix

Exhibit JJS2 - Photos

In the case of such legal documents, the document as a whole should be in a single PDF so that the arrangement of the individual documents within it is preserved in the PDF copy. It might also be necessary to create individual PDFs of the individual documents in addition

What should I do with email attachments?

Email attachments should be included, along with the email message, in a single PDF. 

What should I do if there are pages missing from a document?

Where pages of a document are missing, for example a report with page 5 missing, this should be indicated thus: 

Report by Dr Smith (pages missing) 

This is to alert anyone looking at the document that (a) pages are missing and (b) their omission is not due to any paper misfeed when you scanned in the documents: on the contrary you found the pages missing when you came to scan in the paper documents (or when you came to copy electronic documents). 

Sometimes, rather than simply saying “pages missing” it is possible to be more specific whilst still being concise: 

Conveyance Smith to Jones (plan missing) 

What should I do if the document is illegible?

If a document is partially illegible, this should be indicated thus:

Conveyance Smith to Jones (partially illegible)  

This is to alert anyone looking at the document that the illegibility is not due to inadequate copying by you (e.g. selecting too low a DPI setting) but because the original document you are copying is only partially illegible, so that they know that there is no point in requesting a better copy and the only thing to do is, if required, to arrange to view the original. 

What should I do if a deed or other formal document is unsigned?

In the case of many documents, such as most invoices, it is not to be expected that they would be signed, but where there is a document which has a place set apart for a signature, but has not in fact been signed, this should be indicated thus: 

Deed John Fisher and Peter Fisher (unsigned) 

to draw attention to the fact that the document is an unsigned copy. Often the different parties signing a deed, agreement, etc. are based at some distance from each other and one party will sign the document, take a copy, and then send off the deed, signed at that stage only by them, to the other party for their signature. So having a copy of a deed signed by only one person is not unusual but if there are no signatures at all on a document which has places set apart for signature, that should be indicated.

What if the date of a paper document does not appear on its face?

This question usually arises in the case of older photographs taken with a non-digital camera but could apply to other document types as well. If the date of a document does not appear on its face, add the word circa and an approximate date at the end of the PDF name as shown in the examples below. You still need to put a full date (year month, and day of month) at the start of the name - so that the photo appears in the (approximately) correct order after older documents and before newer documents - but the words at the end of the name make clear that that full date at the start is for sorting purposes only rather than being intended to be the exact date of the document.

1990-01-01 Photo of Brookwood garden - circa 1990s

1992-01-01 Photo of Brookwood garden - circa 1992

1994-04-01 Photo of Brookwood garden - circa spring 1994

1995-08-01 Photo of Brookwood garden - circa August 1995

What if I know a date of a letter is wrong?

Even if you happen to know that you did not send out a letter on the date that you signed it, but a day or two later, you should, nevertheless still enter as a document date the date on the letter. This is because that is the date that will be used when people are referring to the letter. Everybody knows that letters do not arrive instantly so everybody will expect that the letter will have arrived a few days after the date it bears. However if you happen to know that there was an unusually long delay between the date on the letter and the date it was posted you should still enter the document date exactly as it is on the letter, but in the concise document description you should enter the date that it was posted in brackets:

2016-07-20   Letter John Smith to Lucy Jones (posted 10 Aug 2016)

Sometimes a document bears a date which is clearly a mistake. For example a letter may bear the date “5th January 2012” but commence “Thank you for your letter of 28th December 2012...”. In such a case the document date you enter should be what is believed to be the true date - e.g. 5th January 2013 - and the date the document actually bears should be given in brackets in the concise document description:

2013-01-05   Letter John Smith to Lucy Jones (misdated 05 Jan 2012)

What about email chains?

When someone replies to an email, usually the email system will automatically put the text of the message they are replying to after the new text they type, and as email messages go back and forth the email can end up with a chain of quoted messages, but the date and time of the email is always the date and time at the top in the header (the header is the part at the top where is says From, To, Subject, Time/Date).

Don't attempt to enter more than one date at the start of the filename as this will result in the document appearing in the wrong place, chronologically. For example, do not use 2017-03-29 to 2017-04-21 Emails  John Smith and Lucy Jones but simply name the email in the usual way with the date/time from the header - e.g. 

2017-04-21   Email at 12.45 John Smith to Lucy Jones

Should I add disclosure list numbers to file names?

In most legal proceedings there is a disclosure of documents stage at which each party is obliged to send to the other party a list - usually a numbered list - of the documents it proposes to rely on at trial and often also (depending on the court's/tribunal's order) other relevant documents the party has as well. It is useful to be able to identify which party has disclosed each document and to do this an identifier is added immediately after the date like this:

2018-08-15   C12 Letter Smith to Jones  

The letter C indicates that the document was disclosed by the Claimant and C12 indicates that it is document number 12 on the Claimant's Disclosure List. D is used for Defendant, A for Applicant, R for Respondent etc.
The rules of most courts and tribunals require documents to be listed individually on a disclosure list so if it is a numbered disclosure list each document will have its own number. If, exceptionally, a party is allowed to list documents on its disclosure list as groups - e.g. "12.   Ten photos of Brookwood garden" then an alphabetic suffix should be used for each document in that group entry - e.g. C12a, C12b, C12c, etc.  

Generally at the trial, at the end of the legal process, the court/tribunal will require a paginated and indexed bundle of documents containing all documents to be referred to at the trial and in the interests of efficiency the court/tribunal will normally want there to be only a single copy of each document, unless there are good reasons to do otherwise. One good reason to do otherwise would be if the documents are not quite identical - e.g. if one side has made an annotation on a letter received so that that copy if different from the unannotated copy which the sender has kept, but if the documents are identical (or the only differences are minor blemishes caused by the  photocopying process used when the sender made a copy before sending out the letter, for example) then a single copy may be used and it this case that copy would be named as in the following example:

2018-08-15   C12 =D15 Letter Smith to Jones   

In the above example the document is the copy disclosed by the Claimant (it having been checked that the copy disclosed by the Defendant is identical). If the copy disclosed by the Defendant is used then it would be named as in the following example.
2018-08-15   D15 =C12 Letter Smith to Jones  

Some courts/tribunals allow or require the parties to attach certain key items of documentary evidence as an appendix to their pleadings at the start of the case. Even if a party has provided documents at the start of the case in an appendix it is good practice, for completeness, for those documents to still be included in the party's disclosure list (at the disclosure of documents stage) but, in case this is not done, so that there are some documents provided by the other side for which there is no disclosure list number, you should use x instead of the number, like this:

2018-08-15 Dx Letter Smith to Jones

Where on a document can I find the date of the document?

For many documents - letters, emails, invoices, etc. - the date of the document is obvious but here are some tips for documents where it may be less obvious.

  • A document which is a deedconveyanceindenture or similar may have a backsheet - i.e. a page at the end with the name of the document in parallel lines - and, if so, that backsheet may also happen to contain the document date. If there is no backsheet then you may have to look at the initial words on the first page to find out the date. For example it may say "This CONVEYANCE is made on the Fifteenth day of September in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Twenty Two...".
  • If there is more than one date on a document then the date of the document will usually be the most recent date on it. So if an agreement is signed by two people and there are different dates next to each signature, the date of the document is the date that the last person signed it.
  • Sometimes the document you are making a PDF copy of will itself be a copy. If it is a "certified copy" this means that it is a copy which was created by someone such as a solicitor who endorsed the copy with words such as "I certify that this is a true copy of..." followed by their signature and date. In that case the most recent date on the document will be the date next to the certifier's signature but you should not generally use that as the date of the document because that is just the date of the copy certification, not the actual date of the original document - use the most recent date on the document other than the copy certification endorsement date.
  • If you print out a copy of a historical Ordnance Survey map, the date of printing might appear but it is the date (month and year, or year if that is all which is provided) of the historical map itself which should be used, not the date of printing.
  • An Official Copy of a Register of Title from the Land Registry will have and Edition date and, in addition, it will say e.g. This official copy shows the entries on the register of title on 03 AUG 2018 at 16:42:50  It is this official copy date (not the Edition date) which should be used as the date when naming the PDF copy you are creating.
  • An Official Copy of a Title Plan from the Land Registry will have an initial page saying e.g. This official copy is issued on 03 August and shows the state of this title plan on 03 August 2018 at 17:22:15. The title plan itself may have an indication of when the plan was created (often in a circular "stamp" on the bottom right) but it is the official copy date (not the circular stamp date) which should be used when naming the PDF copy you are creating.
  • Some documents contain a chronological list of events, including sometimes the dates of execution of deeds of other documents perhaps with some extracts from the wording of those documents. Such chronological list documents might be called logsregisters, or abstractsSometimes the date of the chronological list document itself is not obvious and people concentrate on the date of the first item set out. but the first item will, of course, if the entries are in chronological order, be the date of the earliest item whereas it is the date of the most recent item - at the end - which is a better guide to the date of the chronological list document itself, since it obviously cannot be dated earlier that the most recent event or document it refers to.Sometimes the extract from a conveyance includes schedules which themselves refer to documents, and those document dates may be written in the margin - be careful not to confuse the date of the most recent conveyance extracted with the (earlier) date of the last document listed in a schedule at the end of the most recent conveyance extracted.                     
  • A particular type of chronological list, used in the old system of (unregistered) conveyancing is called a Abstract of Title (or Epitome of Title). The purpose of these was partly to summarise the basis - i.e. the series of conveyances - by which a seller of property claimed to be able to prove that they were the rightful owner and entitled to sell, and partly to set out actual extracts from documents themselves in an age before photocopiers became widely available. Some Abstracts of Title actually only contain an extract from a single conveyance (e.g. if the seller had owned the property for a long time so that earlier conveyances were not necessary to prove title) and in this case it makes sense to give the Abstract of Title document a date which is the date of the only conveyance set out in it (treating the Abstract of Title document in a similar way to a certified copy - see above) and call the document an Abstract from Conveyance, but if the Abstract of Title contains extracts from two or more conveyances or other documents the Abstract of Title document itself should be given the date when it was written. Sometimes the date the Abstract was written is not obvious but it can often be found in manuscript in the left hand margin on the first page. Sometimes people concentrate on the date of the first extract printed in the margin but the date of the first extract will, of course, if there are two or more extracts in chronological order, be the date of the earliest conveyance whereas it is the date of the most recent conveyance extract - at the end - which is a better guide to the date of the Abstract of Title document itself since the date the Abstract of Title was written obviously cannot be earlier than the most recent conveyance or other document it refers to. Sometimes the extract from a conveyance includes schedules which themselves refer to documents, and those document dates may be written in the margin - be careful not to confuse the date of the most recent conveyance extracted with the (earlier) date of the last document listed in a schedule at the end of the most recent conveyance extracted.                    


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This page was lasted updated in November 2018. Disclaimer