How to Alphabetize in Word

It's not as hard as it sounds

Alphabetize in Word
Word's sorting features can save you tons of time.

Glenn Carstens-Peters \ Unsplash

Learning how to alphabetize in Word can save you loads of time and effort when you want to sort, organize, or classify text in tables, lists, or columns. The method you use depends on the way your text is set up, as well as the version of Word you are using. 

How to Alphabetize a List in Word

You can quickly sort any list in alphabetic or reverse alphabetical order with little more than a few clicks of the mouse. However, the location of this feature varies in different versions of Word.

Word sort feature
Sorting in Word is simple.

In Word 2016, Word 2013, Word 2010, Word 2007, Word for Office 365, Word 2016 for Mac, Word for Mac 2011, and Word for Office 365 for Mac, sorting text alphabetically is straightforward:

  1. Select all the text in your list.
  2. From the Home tab, select Sort to open the Sort Text box.
  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), then select OK

In Word 2003, alphabetizing in Word is a little different, but not difficult: 

  1. Select the text in your list. 
  2. Go to the Table menu and select Sort to open the Sort Text box.
  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) and select OK

Tip: If you alphabetize a numbered list, the sorted list will remain numbered correctly.

Note: 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, although since there are more sorting options there are more steps involved. 

Sort Word tables
The Table Tools tab helps alphabetize in Word.

In Word 2016, Word 2013, Word 2010, Word 2007, Word for Office 365, Word 2016 for Mac, Word for Mac 2011, and Word for Office 365 for Mac, select anywhere in the table to activate the Table Tools tab. 

  1. From the Layout tab, find the Data section, then select Sort to open the Sort dialog box.
  2. Select Header Row under My List Has at the bottom of the box if your table has a header row. This will prevent 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. 
  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. 

In Word 2003, the steps are slightly different.

  1. Go to the Table menu and select Sort. The Sort dialog box will open.
  2. Choose the name of the column by which you want to sort the table in the Sort By list. 
  3. Choose the way you want to sort the table in the Type list. To sort alphabetically, select Text.
  4. Select Ascending or Descending to select the sort order. 
  5. Select Header Row under My List Has at the bottom of the box if your table has a header row. This will prevent Word from including your headers in the sort process. 
  6. Select OK to sort the table. 

Advanced Table Sorting

If your table contains multiple instances of the same word, you can include sorting by other columns as well.

Advanced Sorting in Word
Sort by multiple columns in a Word table.

For instance, if the first column is Flowers and the second is Colors, you might have several entries for Roses in the first column. In this situation, you would do the following:

  1. Select Column 1 in the Sort By list of the Sort dialog box.
  2. Select Column 2 in the Then By list. 
  3. Select OK to sort the table.

You can also select Options in the Sort dialog box for other advanced options. For instance, you can sort text alphabetically using tabs, commas, or other separators; you can make the sort case sensitive; you can also choose the language you want to use to sort text alphabetically in Word.

How to Sort Multiple Columns

If you have lists in multiple columns on the same page but not in a table, sorting alphabetically in Word might seem a bit more challenging. The trick is to select each column, one at a time, and sort it the same way you sort a list.