Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Alphabetizing By Last Name.

Alphabetizing By Last Name

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 2, 2019)

3

It is not unusual to have a list of names in a document, and then need to sort those names. The format in which the names appear can be bothersome, however. For instance, if the names are in a FIRST LAST order, then it can be more challenging to sort them than if they are in a LAST, FIRST order. There are several ways you can accomplish the task, however. One way is with the use of tables. All you need to do is follow these general steps:

  1. Convert the text to a table, using the space between the first and last names as a separator between columns.
  2. Sort the names based upon the second column, which contains the last name.
  3. Convert the table back into text.

This process might sound difficult, but it can go very quickly and allows you to easily see what Word is doing during the sorting.

Another approach that doesn't require messing around with tables is to simply sort the text by words. You can do that by following these steps:

  1. Make sure the names in your document are arranged so there is only one person per paragraph.
  2. Select all the paragraphs containing names.
  3. Make sure the Home tab of the ribbon is displayed.
  4. Click the Sort tool in the Paragraph group. Word displays the Sort Text dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Sort Text dialog box.

  6. Click on Options. Word displays the Sort Options dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  7. Figure 2. The Sort Options dialog box.

  8. Select the Other option.
  9. Erase whatever is in the box to the right of Other, replacing it with a single space. (You are telling Word that you want to consider spaces as the dividing point between sort fields.)
  10. Click on OK to close the Sort Options dialog box.
  11. Use the Sort By drop-down lists to specify the word by which you want to sort. For instance, if you want to sort by last name (the word after the first space), you should choose Word 2 in the Sort By drop-down list.
  12. Click on OK to sort your names.

You should note that this approach only works properly depending on the construction of the names in your list. If there is only a first and last name for each person, then the sorting works fine. It will also work fine if there is a first, middle, and last name for each person—the only difference is that you would select Word 3 in step 8. Problems creep in, however, if there are two names for some people and three for others. In those instances, even the convert-to-table approach first mentioned will not work properly. In that case you must do something to make sure that Word treats first and middle names as if they are a single word; for instance, by separating them with a non-breaking space.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8099) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Alphabetizing By Last Name.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Linking to Slides in PowerPoint

If you are preparing a document that references a presentation you created in PowerPoint, you may want to reference in ...

Discover More

Using Less Paper on Printouts

If a worksheet contains nothing but a bunch of values in column A, you may be loathe to print the worksheet and "waste" a ...

Discover More

Extracting URLs from Hyperlinks

When you add a hyperlink to a worksheet, it consists of a minimum of two parts: display text and URL address. If you have ...

Discover More

Do More in Less Time! Are you ready to harness the full power of Word 2013 to create professional documents? In this comprehensive guide you'll learn the skills and techniques for efficiently building the documents you need for your professional and your personal life. Check out Word 2013 In Depth today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Sorting Text

Word makes it easy to sort the information that is contained in your document. Here's how to accomplish this.

Discover More

Sorting by Headings

Headings are a great way to organize your document. If, after getting your headings in place, you want to sort by those ...

Discover More

Changing Paragraph Order

Want a quick way to rearrange entire paragraphs of your document? You can easily do it by using the technique described here.

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is one more than 3?

2019-11-04 19:11:50

Sheila McInnes

Many thanks Richard. I was using the little down arrow at the bottom right of Paragraph group and couldn't find anything.


2019-11-04 04:14:33

Richard Curtis

Sheila, the Sort icon looks like an A on top of a Z with a down-arrow next to it.
The arrangement of features within the Paragragrap group depends on your screen width. On my widescreen monitor the Sort icon sits between the Indent and Show/Hide tools.


2019-11-03 18:15:09

Sheila McInnes

Couldn't find 'Sort' in the Paragraph group of Home tab - Word 2007


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.