ORDER BY sorts returned results by one or more columns in ascending or descending order.
SELECT author,title FROM classics ORDER BY author; SELECT author,title FROM classics ORDER BY title DESC;
As you can see, the first query returns the publications by author in ascending alphabetical order (the default), and the second returns them by title in descending order. If you wanted to sort all the rows by author and then by descending year of publication (to view the most recent first), you would issue the following query:
SELECT author,title,year FROM classics ORDER BY author,year DESC;
This shows that each ascending and descending qualifier applies to a single column. The DESC keyword applies only to the preceding column, year. Because you allow author to use the default sort order, it is sorted in ascending order. You could also have explicitly specified ascending order for that column, with the same results:
SELECT author,title,year FROM classics ORDER BY author ASC,year DESC;