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We have a table that we've been working with, but the rows of data aren't in any useful order. If a reader looks at this table, and they have to decide how it's organized, there isn't a pattern. They'll waste time trying to figure out the randomness of this data. Whenever we present a table, we should order it in a way that it makes sense to the people looking at it. We can use Word 2010's Sort feature to quickly rearrange the rows of our table in order. There are three kinds of data that Word recognizes. First, it recognizes plain text, like Ventura, CA, and Raul Morales.
It also recognizes numbers, like 5 and 1982. Finally, it recognizes dates. When we sort items, we always want to make sure we sort them in the correct type. If we sort, for example, a column of numbers as text, we'll get a result that we really didn't expect to see. So we'll try that so we can take a look at it. But sorting is very easy. The Sort tools are on the Layout tab under Table tools. We'll start by simply clicking anywhere in the table and then clicking Sort to open the Sort dialog box.
I'd like to sort this by city. So I'm going to choose Sort by > City. Word correctly identifies the Type of my data is Text and Ascending is alphabetical, A to Z. There's almost never a reason to sort text in descending order. What it looks like is a list sorted backwards. Pay attention here to the fact that Word correctly identifies that I have a header row. The reason it knows I have a header row is that all of the entries here are text.
If I had, for example, 2010-2011 budget year as one of my header choices, it might incorrectly assume I have no header row. What this determines is whether this row will be sorted as part of the data or kept above the sort. Having set my sort, correctly acknowledge that my header row exists, I'm going to click OK. We're going to sort this list by city, easily recognizable to a reader who would look and say, ah, sorted by city! Let's sort this list by state and then by city, also easy enough to do, sort by state, and then in cases where the state is the same, sort by city. Let's say OK.
We have a list where all of the California stores are listed first, but within the state of California, they are alphabetized, followed by the Florida stores where the city is also alphabetized. Let's take a look at sorting some numerical data. Let's click Sort. Let's click the number of Employees. I'm going to set this to none. Word correctly identifies this list as a list of numbers. It can do that because every entry here is a number.
No one typed in a value, like NA or some other text that would mislead Word. We're going to sort these in descending order with our largest stores on top. This would be 100 down to 0 sort, versus a 1 to 100 sort. I'm going to click OK. We have a list where our stores with the largest staffs are listed on top, and the lowest at the bottom. Let's sort this again and sort it in ascending order. So, we will get 4, 5, 7, 8, 12.
Now, what if Word misidentifies the type of data that this is? That most likely, again, happens because there are text entries in a column of data that otherwise should have numbers in it. I'm going to choose Sort. I'm going to tell Word that these are actually text entries. They're not numbers. When I do that, you'll notice I get a really weird sort: 12, 4, 5, 7, 8. I want to open that dialog box again so you can see it, because this is a frequently asked question in Microsoft Word.
If I sort as text, all Word does is the same thing that it does when it sorts by city or by state. It says does this start with a 1 or a 2 or a 3? So, it's looking at just the 1. So the 1s will be followed by 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 7s and 8s. If I sort this by number, however, Word knows to look at the entire number as a value, not as simply a string of characters, and gives me back the sort that I'd like to have. Just one note, there is a limitation here.
In a Word table, I can only sort by three fields. So, if you imagine a phonebook where you have states, then cities, then last names, then first names, that's a kind of sort that Word can't handle. I can only sort by state, city, and last name, and then the first names would be randomized. There is, however, a way I can do this in Word: Instead of using a Word table, I'm going to insert a table from Excel, because Excel can sort by as many columns as you wish. Whenever you create a table of data in Microsoft Word, you should be careful to provide some kind of an order to the table that's recognizable to readers, or is explained in text that surrounds the table.
Fortunately, sorting is very easy to do in Microsoft Word 2010.
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