Jesster Jesster - 7 months ago 30
R Question

splitting and reordering character string by comma in r

I have several years worth of data on individuals, but their names are formatted differently each year. Half of the names are already in "First Last" order but I can't figure out how to successfully edit the other half ("Last, First").

Here's a sample df:

name <- c("First1 Last1","Last2, First2", "Last3, First3", "First4 Last4", "First5 Last5")
salary <-c(51000, 72000,125000,67000,155000)
year <-c(2012,2014,2013,2013,2014)

df <- data.frame(name, salary, year, stringsAsFactors=FALSE)

Here are things I've tried: split up the text by comma:

df$name2 <- strsplit(df$name, ", ") #to split the character string by comma
df$name3 <-paste(df$name2, collapse=" ") #to collapse the newly created vectors back into a string
df$name4 <-paste(rev(df$name2)) #to try pasting each vector in reverse order
df$name5 <-paste(rev(df$name2)[2:1]) #trying again...

I've printed the correct names, but backwards, and printed them on the wrong rows, but despite all googling I can't get it to work correctly. What am I doing wrong?


You can use a regular expression:

df$name <- sub("(L[A-Za-z0-9]+).*\\s+(F[A-Za-z0-9]+).*","\\2 \\1",df$name)

# df
#           name salary year
# 1 First1 Last1  51000 2012
# 2 First2 Last2  72000 2014
# 3 First3 Last3 125000 2013
# 4 First4 Last4  67000 2013
# 5 First5 Last5 155000 2014

The code looks for a word beginning with an uppercase L, followed by some letters / digits, then by some symbols, a space, then a word beginnign with an uppercase F, some letters / digits and then some symbols.

It then reorders the two words by putting first the one beginning with an F (that is, (F[A-Za-z0-9]+)), then the one beginning with an L ( that is, (L[A-Za-z0-9]+)).

As you can see, the code removes the comma (it seems to be your desired output).

With the new info, use the code :

df$name <- sub('(.*)\\,\\s+(.*)','\\2 \\1', df$name)

# sub('(.*)\\,\\s+(.*)','\\2 \\1',name)
# [1] "John Smith"       "Marcus Green"     "Mario Sanchez"    "Jennifer Roberts" "Sammy Lee"

Here, we are looking for characters before a comma, followed by a space and then by other characters. We then reorder the first and the second group to have the desired output.

Note: I assumed that if there is no comma, then the names are already in the correct order (that seems to be the case in your comment).