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: Selecting Sentences.

Stepping through Sentences

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 20, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


An easy way to select a sentence in Word is to hold down the Ctrl key as you click on a word. This selects the entire sentence in which the word is contained. What if you want to step through your document, once sentence at a time, though? Word doesn't provide a built-in way to do that, unlike some other word processors.

You can create this capability yourself through the use of macros. The following macro, StepRightSentence, provides the capability to step through a document one sentence at a time toward the right. You can assign the macro either to a shortcut key or to a toolbar button.

Sub StepRightSentence()
    If Selection.Type <> wdNoSelection Then
        Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1, Extend:=wdMove
    End If
    Selection.Sentences(1).Next(Unit:=wdSentence, Count:=1).Select
End Sub

If you want to use Word to step through a document toward the left (beginning of the document), you can use the following macro, StepLeftSentence:

Sub StepLeftSentence()
    If Selection.Type <> wdNoSelection Then
        Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1, Extend:=wdMove
    End If
    Selection.Sentences(1).Previous(Unit:=wdSentence, Count:=1).Select
End Sub

Regardless of which of these macros you use, the result is that you step through your document, one sentence at a time. After running the macro, the next sentence—left or right—is selected. If you instead want to only jump to the beginning of the sentence, without selecting it, add the following line as the final line in the macro, just before the End Sub statement:

    Selection.Collapse Direction:=wdCollapseStart

If you prefer to not use macros, you can also move through sentences by customizing Word to take advantage of some "hidden" commands. Follow these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and later versions click the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box click Customize (Word 2007) or Customize Ribbon (later versions of Word). (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The customize ribbon area of the Word Options dialog box.

  4. At the bottom of the dialog box click Customize, next to the Keyboard Shortcuts label. Word displays the Customize Keyboard dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Customize Keyboard dialog box.

  6. In the Categories list, choose All Commands.
  7. In the Commands list, choose SentLeft.
  8. Click in the Press New Shortcut Key box.
  9. Press Alt+Left Arrow.
  10. Click on Assign.
  11. Click Close, then close the Word Options dialog box as well.

After performing this series of steps, you can step backwards through your document, one sentence at a time, simply by pressing Alt+Left Arrow. You can also repeat the steps and assign the following

Action Commands List Shortcut Key
Step right by sentences SentRight Alt+Right Arrow
Step left and select SentLeftExtend Shift+Alt+Left Arrow
Step right and select SentRightExtend Shift+Alt+Right Arrow

Most Word users will find these keyboard commands a welcome addition to the normal editing keys. You should know, however, that some of these suggested shortcut keys are already in use by Word. For instance, the Shift+Alt+Left Arrow combination is used to promote a heading level in an outline. However, if you can live without that use of the keys, then go for it. (Personally, I think this reassigned use makes much more sense.) If you would rather use a different key combination, you can do so by using any one you would like in step 7 above.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10275) 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: Selecting Sentences.

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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