Software

How to Alphabetize Lists In Word


I learned something new the other day—Word can alphabetize a list. I’m sure many users already know this, but it’s brand new to me. Years ago, I could do this with WordPerfect, but I’ve never tried with Word, until now. That means I can stopping using cut and paste and just click a few buttons using the Sort Text command. You can test this feature yourself by typing a short list of names such as the following:

Betty Jo Nichols

Susan Harkins

Alexis Stanley

Select the entire list and choose Sort from the Table menu. From the Sort By list, choose Field 1 and click OK. Word sorts the selected list by the first word—in this case, that’s the first names, as follows:

Alexis Stanley

Betty Jo Nichols

Susan Harkins

To sort by the last names, you need to specify the character that separates each name. In this case, only a space character separates each item. Select the list and choose Sort from the Table menu. Click the Options button at the bottom of the dialog box and then choose Other from the list of delimiters. Enter a space character and click OK. Then, choose Word 2 from the Sort By list and click OK.

Susan Harkins

Betty Jo Nichols

Alexis Stanley

Although the names sort correctly by their last names, don’t be fooled. Word is really sorting Jo and not Nichols before Stanley. It’s a coincidence that the last names fall into order as well. You’ll want to watch for just such an error. The problem is easier to see if you change Jo to A as follows:

Betty A. Nichols

Susan Harkins

Alexis Stanley

This time, the problem is obvious and you know something’s amiss. Each name must have the same number of items for this feature to work correctly. In this case, you must delete Jo, or add a middle initial or name for the other two items in the list.

About

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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