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.

Profile Photo for Amelia Griggs Amelia Griggs
Amelia Griggs is a Learning Design and Development specialist, Instructional Designer, Writer, and "Authorpeneuer." She enjoys researching, designing, and developing all kinds of educational materials, problem-solving, helping and training others to understand technology better, writing instructional articles, blogging, and composing fictional short stories.
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