Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Changing Paragraph Order.

Changing Paragraph Order

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 19, 2022)

Most writing is an iterative adventure. When writing a document of any length, you will find that you write it once, making changes as you go, and then you will probably rewrite it over and over again until you get it just the way you want.

If you find that there are several consecutive paragraphs in your document that you want to reorder, you can apply this tip:

  1. Put a number as the first character in each paragraph. The number should represent the final order in which you want to the paragraphs to appear. Thus, the first paragraph would be 1, the paragraph you want next would be 2, and so on.
  2. Select all the paragraphs you want to reorder.
  3. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  4. In the Paragraph group, click the Sort tool. Word displays the Sort Text dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Sort Text dialog box.

  6. Make sure you are sorting by Paragraph and that the sort type is Number.
  7. Click on OK.
  8. Remove the numbers from the front of each paragraph.

Note that you can also use the outline view of a document to reorder your paragraphs, but sometimes this can be a bit too much trouble. The foregoing steps are quick and easy for most people.

There is one gotcha you need to watch for: When you add the numbers to the beginning of your paragraphs, you'll want to be sure that Word doesn't try to change them into a numbered list. If it converts one of your paragraphs into a numbered-list item, then simply press Ctrl+Z immediately after it does so. Word then undoes its conversion and leaves the number you typed.

Also, if you have more than 9 paragraphs you want to sort, make sure you include a leading 0 with your numbers (01, 02, 03, etc.). This will ensure that Word sorts the paragraphs properly.

If you only have a few paragraphs to move around, you might find it easier to use the keyboard. Position the insertion point in the paragraph you wish to move and press the Alt+Shift key combination simultaneously while pressing the Up arrow or Down arrow key to move the paragraph to the desired location.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9002) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Changing Paragraph Order.

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. ...

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