The thing I most often have to sort is the list of words in a project’s style sheet. Rather than entering each word in order manually, I just use a macro within the main document to add the word to the style sheet. Later, I sort that list on the style sheet with the Sort button on the Home tab of Word’s Ribbon.
Sorting table contents is just as easy: click that same Sort button.
The Sort will order plain text, numbers, or dates.
To Sort a List
(These instructions will vary between operating systems (Windows vs. Mac) and between versions of Word. Show below is Word 2016, 365 for Mac.)
- Select the list so that it is highlighted.
- Click the Sort button on the Home tab of Word’s Ribbon.
- Select how the list should be sorted. The Sort dialog box is contextual. So, if you are sorting a table, the columns will be an option in the Sort by field.
- Select whether to sort by paragraphs or columns.
- Indicate whether the material is text, numbers, or dates.
- Choose to sort material in ascending (A to Z) or descending (10 to 1) order.
- If material is in a table, assign the next sort criteria in the Then by row, and a third criteria, if desired.
- Click the option for a Header row if your list has one.
- Click the Options… button to indicate that fields are separated by tabs or commas or another character rather than by paragraph marks. In this dialog you can also indicate that the sort should be case sensitive.
- Press OK to perform the sort.
Sorting by Number
Sorting by number works even if the numbers appear at the end of the entries, such as in the case of index entries. Numbers can use a combination of comma separators or not for values under a million. But numbers that contain spaces are not sorted correctly, even if a non-breaking space is used. For example, Word gives this list, once sorted:
Sorting by Date
Dates do not have to be in the same format for sorting to work. The middle field in the all-number format is interpreted as the month. So, with a mixed list, Word gives this:
12 Dec 1972
October 19, 2005
Hack for More Options
To sort by several criteria at once (step 3.3.1 above), select the list, then convert it to a table temporarily by selecting Convert Table to Text… from the Convert option on the Table menu. Then perform the more sophisticated sort and convert the table back to text.
Photo by Schristia, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.