Sorting by Highlighting

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 30, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021

Tim has a list of items in a Word document. Each item is in its own paragraph (Enter at the end) and not in a table. Some of the items (paragraphs) have highlighting applied to them. Tim wonders if there is a way to sort the paragraphs so that the highlighted paragraphs are together. In other words, he needs to sort by highlight as the primary sort key.

Word can sort by many things but sorting by highlighting is not one of those things. However, Find & Replace can search for highlighting. One method would be to use Find & Replace to prefix each highlighted paragraph with a unique keyword, run Find & Replace again to prefix non-highlighted paragraphs with another keyword, then sort the document using the first word as the first key so that the highlighted paragraphs are together. Afterwards run Find & Replace to remove the two special keywords. Obviously, this method is tricky to set up and requires several steps.

Another approach is to simply sort all the paragraphs, without regard to the highlighting. Once that is done, you can use a macro to move highlighted paragraphs to the start of the document. The highlighted paragraphs will appear in the sorted order they were in the document.

Sub MoveHighlightedParas()
    Dim paraMax As Long
    Dim paraStart As Long
    Dim j As Long
    Dim r As Range

    With ActiveDocument
        paraMax = .Paragraphs.Count
        paraStart = 0
        j = paraMax
        Do While j > paraStart
            If .Paragraphs(j).Range.HighlightColorIndex <> wdNoHighlight Then
                Set r = .Content
                paraStart = paraStart + 1
                j = j - 1
            End If
    End With
End Sub


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 (13272) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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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