How do I sort whole paragraphs in Word?

Word offers a powerful sorting feature and it can do more than you might think, even sort paragraphs.

Unlike Access and Excel, sorting doesn't come naturally in Word. Fortunately, Word offers a robust sorting feature that can handle most needs - even the more creative ones! For instance, let's suppose you have a document of paragraphs and you decide you want to rearrange the paragraphs. You might spend some time using cut and paste to move them around, but would it surprise you to learn that Word can sort them for you? Let's work through a simple example. Let's rearrange the paragraphs in the document below.

First, determine the new order. In this case, I want the paragraphs in the following order:
  • First paragraph will be third.
  • Second paragraph will be first.
  • Third paragraph will be second.
  • Fourth paragraph will be fifth.
  • Fifth paragraph (not shown above) will be fourth.
That's a lot of cutting and pasting and it's a short document! Imagine how much more work a long document would be. Fortunately, Word's sort feature can help. By putting a representative number at the beginning of each paragraph and then sorting by paragraph, Word will rearrange the paragraphs. Here's how:

  1. First, add the representative numbers to the beginning of each paragraph.
  2. In Word 2010, click the Home tab. Then, click Sort in the Paragraph group. In Word 2003, choose Sort from the Table menu.
  3. In the Sort Text dialog box, choose Paragraphs from the Sort By dropdown (it's the default, you shouldn't have to change it).
  4. Choose Number from the Type dropdown.
  5. Select an order—Ascending is the default.
  6. Click OK and Word sorts the paragraphs by their preceding numbers.
After sorting, remove the numbers. I've seen this feature act a little buggy. When that happens, I close the document, reopen it, and start over. If Word doesn't sort the paragraphs using a Number type, you can use Text unless you have more than nine paragraphs. In a text sort, 10 and 11 will sort before 2.

About Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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