Select Posts On The First Letter Of A Custom Field

This post is in response to a request to filter posts based on the first letter of a custom field. The requestor was creating a staff listing where the person’s last name was stored in a custom field named ‘staff_last_name’. A menu of all letters was needed to allow the viewer to select the letter to view.

The code shown below should be added into a template that is customized for the theme in use.

// Filter a query by first letter of a custom field

$post_type = 'staff';  // Post type to query
$meta_key = 'staff_last_name';  // The key of the custom field

// Filter functions
function mam_posts_fields ($fields) {
   global $mam_global_fields;
   // Make sure there is a leading comma
   if ($mam_global_fields) $fields .= (preg_match('/^(\s+)?,/',$mam_global_fields)) ? $mam_global_fields : ", $mam_global_fields";
      return $fields;
function mam_posts_where ($where) {
   global $mam_global_where;
   if ($mam_global_where) $where .= " $mam_global_where";
      return $where;
// Get the permalink of this page to use in the letter links
if (have_posts()) {
   while (have_posts()) {
      $this_page = get_permalink();
   // Make the menu
   for ($i=0;$i<26 ;++$i ) {
      $this_letter = chr(ord('A') + $i);
      $letter_link = add_query_arg('first-letter',$this_letter,$this_page);
      <a href="<?php echo $letter_link; ?>" title="<?php echo "letter-$this_letter"; ?>"> [<?php echo $this_letter; ?> ]</a>
   <?php }

   $query_letter = ($_GET['first-letter']) ? $_GET['first-letter'] : 'A';
   $mam_global_fields = " $wpdb->postmeta.meta_value AS meta_value, UPPER(SUBSTR($wpdb->postmeta.meta_value,1,1)) AS first_letter";
   $mam_global_where = " AND UPPER(SUBSTR($wpdb->postmeta.meta_value,1,1)) = '$query_letter'";
   $args = array(
      'post_type' => $post_type,
      'meta_key' => $meta_key,
      'ignore_sticky_posts' => 1,
      'orderby' => 'meta_value'
   if (have_posts()) {
      while (have_posts()) {
         // Put your code here to display the posts
         echo "<p>TITLE:";the_title();echo " LETTER:$post->first_letter VALUE:$post->meta_value</p>";
   } else {
      echo "<h2>No entries found for $query_letter</h2>";

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