Guest Author - Chris Curtis
Sorting information is pretty flexible in MS Word. The Sort Dialog Box provides several options from which you can choose. The Sort command in MS Word is found under the Table menu. You can sort short lists, tables or paragraphs as needed.
The sort dialog box allows for a three level sort and provides an option to identify whether your sort area has a header row or no header row. Each level of sort can be set to ascending or descending order. Be careful that your choices make logical sense or you might get some unusual results.
Below the sort criteria, select whether your list has a Header row or No header row. When you have a header row, this option will exclude any titles from the sort criteria.
For example you might have a simple list of names (i.e., first name separated by a space and last name) that you want to sort. The default sort criteria is "paragraphs" thus each line would be sorted by the first letter of the line.
If you click on the "Sort by" drop down, you can chose to sort based on the position of the word in the paragraph as illustrated below. So for a simple list of names entered by first name, last name, choosing Word 2 from the drop down will sort the list by the last name providing there are no middle initials in any of the names.
Be careful when selecting your list of data to be sorted. If you select the line above your list or the line below your list, Word will not be able to interpret that there are two words in each of your list rows.
Consistency of the data is critical for using sorting techniques in word. For example, if you want to sort a list of names then all of the names must be entered consistently. When some of the name have middle initials or full names but others do not; then you would need to eliminate them from those that do or choose to enter last name first followed by first name and middle initial. By doing this you can achieve a last name sort without consideration the word position. In other words, you are limited to a first word sort when the entries in your list contain an inconsistent number of words.
You can also designate the type of information to be sorted. Choose from Text, Numbers, or Dates.
Additional flexibility is found under the options button. You can choose the way you want the fields to be separated. For example, if your list separates information by tabs, you can designate that fields are separated by tabs. With the other selection, you can type in a unique identifier including a space. You can also make the sort criteria case sensitive using the options dialog box.
Sort techniques can also be used when your data is contained in a table structure.
Try working with the sort dialog box to see what happens to your data when you choose different options. Remember you can always use the undo feature, if your results are not what you expected. Experimentation is the best way to learn new Word features.