How To Alphabetize in Microsoft Word (Plus Steps and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 8, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Content organization is a Word feature that can help professionals organize data in their documents. Alphabetizing can help employees organize words they type in lists or charts. Understanding how to alphabetize in Word can help you organize your documents more effectively. In this article, we discuss what alphabetizing in Word is, steps on how to do it and why it's important.

What is alphabetizing in Word?

Alphabetizing in Word is when a user organizes multiple items in the document according to alphabetical order. These items include titles, phrases, names or other words that you may want to list. Alphabetizing can be helpful in multiple work contexts, such as for organization, listing and instruction creation. Alphabetizing in Word can apply to many structures, including charts, graphs or sets of paragraphs.

Why is alphabetizing in Word important?

Alphabetizing in Word can be important for many reasons, including:

Helps you and readers find information

Listing items in alphabetical order can help you quickly find information, like a person's working hours in a chart. If you're making a long list, alphabetizing your list may help readers more easily find names within it. If you're creating instructions, alphabetizing each area can help readers navigate a manual easily.

Related: How To Make a Timeline in Microsoft Word (With Tips)

Organizes information

Even if a document is for your use only, alphabetizing can be useful for organization as well. Examples of documents that can use alphabetizing for the organization include timesheets, query posts or vacation schedules. The alphabetical organizational format could help you use your documents more quickly and effectively.

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Displays information

Alphabetizing can help display information beyond lists for yourself and other staff to use. This can affect charts and graphics as well, which may make content more visually appealing and understandable for an audience during a presentation or in a manual. It can also make graphs easier for a reader to process.

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How to alphabetize in Word

If you want to alphabetize your text in Word, consider following the steps below:

1. Open the Word file

To begin, open the Word file you want to sort. You can copy and paste a list of items into the document if you have one already prepared, or create a new one. If you want to alphabetize those items, you can first format them as a list. If you want to make an item series into a list, give each entry its own line.

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2. Highlight the text that you want to sort

Once you've opened your Word document and inserted your text into a list format, highlight all text that you want to sort. For charts and other graphics, make sure that you highlight each piece before you select your sorting options. In the "Home" tab, click the button labeled "Sort." The icon displays an A above a Z. When you click the icon, Word opens the "Sort Text" dialogue box.

3. Organize your alphabetizing

After you open the "Sort Text" dialogue box, the default option Word offers is to sort the text by paragraph. This option allows you to sort columns, graphics and display text no matter how large or long the selected text is. On the left side of the window, select the "Ascending" option. This lists all your items in alphabetical order. If you select the "Descending" option, your items change to reverse alphabetical order.

How to alphabetize in Word 2003 or older

If you want to alphabetize your lists in older editions of Word software, consider following the steps below:

1. Open the Word 2003 file

If you're using a file type for Word 2003 or older, open the file using your older version of Word. Similar to the more updated version, prepare your text by copying it and pasting it into the file. Each entry should have its own line so you can list it.

2. Select all text you want to sort

Next, highlight all text that you want to sort. If you want to list everything in the document, then you won't need to highlight the text in this edition of Word. If what you want to list is only part of the larger document, highlight it.

3. Sort your text

Under the "Table" menu, select "Sort." From the "Sort Text" dialogue box, choose your sorting order. On the left of the box, select "Ascending" rather than "Descending" between the two options. Similar to the newest edition, Word 2003 also gives you the option to list items in reverse alphabetical order by using the "Descending" option.

Tips for alphabetizing in Word

If you want to learn more about how you can better organize your text within Word, consider some of the following tips:

To keep your list organized, detail your text beforehand

When formatting your text, consider using other text editors to detail your list before you paste it. If you copy your list from another source, such as a webpage, it may be more difficult to format it once you paste it into Word. To help avoid any invisible spaces or errors in your text, consider editing them within another processor to prepare them for your list in Word.

Organize text additives before you make your list

When creating your list, you can order it in different ways depending on your needs. If you have headers or footers for your text, you can organize them according to those instead of the first word in your text. This can be useful for instructions or documents with organization patterns based on departments rather than sections.

Create columns to improve list readability

If you're creating a long list of short items, such as a list of names, you may consider creating a column for your list. Columns allow your list to progress from one side of the page to the other, rather than continuing to the next page. This makes it easy to read and follow.

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