Word supports simple and multi-level sorts for tabular data

Updated on October 29, 2022

What To Know

  • Lists: Select the list. Go to Home > Sort. Pick Paragraph in Sort By and Text in Type. Choose either Ascending or Descending, and press OK.
  • Tables: Under Layout, go to Data > Sort. Pick Header Row in My List Has, the column in Sort By, Text in Type, and Asc. or Desc. Press OK.
  • Advanced: Select Column 1 and Sort By. Then, select Column 2 and Then By. Press OK. Select Options for more sorting controls.

This article explains how to alphabetize in Word, so you can save you loads of time and effort when you want to sort, organize, or classify text in tables, lists, or columns. These instructions apply to Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, Word for Microsoft 365, Word 2016 for Mac, and Word for Microsoft 365 for Mac.

How to Alphabetize a List in Word

Sort any list in alphabetic or reverse alphabetical order with little more than a few clicks of the mouse.

  1. Select the text of your list.
  2. From the Home tab, select Sort to open the Sort Text box.Sorting in Word is simple.
  3. Choose Paragraphs in the Sort By box and choose Text in the Type box.
  4. Select Ascending (A to Z) or Descending (Z to A).
  5. Then, press OK.

If you alphabetize a numbered list, the sorted list will remain numbered correctly. This process will not sort a multilevel list properly.

How to Sort a Table Alphabetically

The process of sorting a table alphabetically is similar to sorting a list.

  1. From the Layout tab, find the Data section, then select Sort to open the Sort dialog box. This dialog box supports several options.
  2. Select Header Row under My List Has at the bottom of the box if your table has a header row. This setting prevents Word from including your headers in the sort process.
  3. Choose the name of the column by which you want to sort the table in the Sort By list.The Table Tools tab helps alphabetize in Word.
  4. Choose the way you want to sort the table in the Type list. To sort alphabetically, choose Text.
  5. Select Ascending or Descending to select the sort order.
  6. Click OK to sort the table.

Advanced Table Sorting

Word supports multi-level sorting—a helpful feature if a primary sort column includes duplicate values.

  1. Select Column 1 in the Sort By list of the Sort dialog box.Sort by multiple columns in a Word table.
  2. Select Column 2 in the Then By list.
  3. Select OK to sort the table.
  4. Select Options in the Sort dialog box for other advanced options. For example, sort text alphabetically using tabs, commas, or other separators; make the sort case sensitive; choose the language you want to use to sort text alphabetically in Word.


    • How do I sort a table in ascending order in Word?To sort the contents of a table in Word in ascending order, select the table and go to Table Design > Layout > Sort. Choose whether or not your data has headers. Next to Sort by, choose how you want to sort (name or column) and what type of data it is (text, number, or date). Select Ascending as your sort order.
    • How do I make a table in Word?To insert a table in Word, place your cursor where you want the table to appear and select Insert. In the Tables area, select Table and drag over the cells to select how many columns and rows you want. Use the Table Design options to design your table.
    • How do I add a row to a table in Word?To add a row to your table, click in the table where you want the row and select the Layout tab. Select Insert Above or Insert Below to add the row. If you’re adding a row to the bottom of the table, select the last cell of the last row and press Tab.

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Microsoft Word makes it easy for you to alphabetize text, whether that text is on its own, in a list, or part of a table. Let’s take a look at how it’s done.

How to Alphabetize Paragraphs or Single-Level Lists

Sorting text alphabetically works the same way whether the text is in separate paragraphs or an actual list (bulleted or numbered). One thing to note, though, is that Word can only handle sorting a single level list. If you sort a list with multiple levels, it still sorts every line alphabetically and can rearrange your whole list. RELATED: How to Create and Work with Multilevel Lists in Microsoft Word First, select the text that you want to sort. Here, we’re just using text where each word is its own paragraph, but the procedure is the same if you select items in a bulleted or numbered list. Switch over to the “Home” tab on Word’s Ribbon, and then click the “Sort” button. This opens the Sort Text window. In the Sort By options, select “Paragraphs” from the first dropdown, and then select “Text” from the “Type” dropdown. Click the “Ascending” option to sort from A to Z, or “Descending” to sort from Z to A. When you’ve got it all set up, click the “OK” button. And just like that, your text is alphabetized.

How to Alphabetize By Something Other Than the First Word

Let’s look at another example. Say that each item on your list has multiple words and you want to alphabetize by something other than the first word. The most straightforward example of this would be a list of names where we wanted to sort by the last name instead of the first. Select your text. Switch over to the “Home” tab on Word’s Ribbon, and then click the “Sort” button. In the Sort Text window, click the “Options” button. In the Sort Options window, select the “Other” option. In the box to its right, delete any existing characters, and then press the Spacebar once. Click “OK” when you’re done. Back in the Sort Text window, choose “Word 2” from the “Sort By” dropdown, and then click the “OK” button. Here’s the result: You can even sort by multiple words in one go. Suppose you had a list arranged last name first, like in the following image. You want to alphabetize that list by the last name, but then you also want to do a second alphabetization by the first name. No problem. After selecting your list, hit that “Sort” button on the Ribbon again. In the Sort Text window, choose “Word 2” from the “Sort By” dropdown, and then choose “Word 1” from the first “Then By” dropdown. (There’s even room for another layer down there if you need it.) When you’re done, you’ve got a nicely sorted list that looks like this.

How to Alphabetize Text in a Table

In this next example, let’s say you had a table and you wanted to alphabetize the rows according to the text in a particular column. In our case here, we’re using a table with some information about various cities, and we want to alphabetize by the state, which is our fourth column. First, select the entire table. Switch over to the “Home” tab on Word’s Ribbon, and then click the “Sort” button. In the Sort window, in the “Sort By” dropdown menu, select the column you by which you’d like to sort. In our case, we’re choosing “State” because Word pulled that descriptor from our header row. We’re going to keep it simple in this example and just sort by state, but if you wanted to add a second level of sorting (in our case we might want to sort by city after sorting by state), you could select it from the “Then By” dropdown menu. Click “OK” when you’re all set up. And here’s our table again, this time sorted alphabetically by the “State” column. READ NEXT

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Word Featured Microsoft Word allows you to sort your text and tables alphabetically. This article explains how it works and the steps to do it. Creating lists in Microsoft Word is easy—organizing them might seem a little trickier. However, like Excel, a “Sort A-Z” option exists in Word that allows you to organize your text by sorting it alphabetically easily. This feature which we will review in detail, allows you to alphabetize your text in ascending or descending order. This will work whether your text is separated into paragraphs or grouped in a table. Ready? Let’s take a look at how it works.

How to Alphabetize Lists or Paragraphs in Word

Let’s assume you have a list of countries in an open Word document. To organize them in alphabetical order, select them all using your keyboard, or press Ctrl + A on your keyboard to select the text automatically. Note: It doesn’t matter if the text in your Word document is shown in individual sentences, paragraphs, or a list—Word treats them the same. An unorganized list of countries in Word From the ribbon bar, press the Home tab. From here, and with your text selected, click the Sort button to open the Sort Text options dialog box. The Sort button has the letters A and Z, next to a downwards arrow. Sort button in Word In the Sort Text options box, ensure that the Paragraphs option is selected from the drop-down menu under the Sort by section. Under Type, make sure that Text is selected in the drop-down menu. To sort from A-Z, click the Ascending radio button or Descending to sort your text from Z to A. Click OK to alphabetize your text with the options selected. The Sort options box in Word If the options you chose were correct, the text you’ve selected will be sorted to your requirements. This will be in alphabetical order from A to Z (or Z to A), depending on your selected option. A sorted list in Microsoft Word You can undo the process by pressing the undo button in the top-left or pressing Ctrl+Z on your keyboard.

How to Alphabetize Text in Tables

You can also use Word’s sorting options to alphabetize text grouped in a table. As with ungrouped text, you can alphabetize this in ascending or descending order. To do this, you’ll need a table containing text with one or more columns in a Word document. To begin sorting, select the contents of your table. From the ribbon bar, click Home, then click the Sort button to load the Sort Text option dialog box. Sort button in Word For this example, we’ll assume you have a table of countries. The table has three columns—country names, the names of various major cities, and the population sizes of those cities. In the Sort Text option box, you’ll need to choose the first column you want to sort under the Sort by options box. For this example, we’ve chosen the Countries column from the drop-down menu. To sort the country names in alphabetical order, choose Text from the Type drop-down menu. Under the Using section, choose the Paragraphs option. Select Ascending to sort from A to Z, or Descending for Z to A. The Sort by options for a table in Word You can also add a second level of sorting. This could allow you to alphabetically sort your countries, followed by a sort of capital city names. To do this, select the second column of your table to sort in the Then by option drop-down menu. For this example, we’ve chosen the City column. Make sure to select Text and Paragraphs from the Type and Using drop-down menus. Choose Ascending or Descending to sort from A to Z (or Z to A). You can also perform a third layer of sorting under the second Then by column if you’d prefer. Press OK to perform the sort of your table once you’re ready. Options to sort a table in Word The table will be alphabetized in ascending or descending order across one or multiple columns, depending on your selected options. A sorted table in Microsoft Word Press the undo button in the upper-left corner or press Ctrl+Z to undo the process, if necessary.

Organizing Your Microsoft Word Documents

Once you know how to alphabetize in Word, you know how to keep organized. You can use it to create shopping lists or stay on top of your most important to-dos, for instance. If you’re using Word to organize your life, think about using building blocks in Word to create your common documents from templates quickly. Once you’ve outgrown Word, think about using ToDoist or another life planner instead.

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