Learn How To Alphabetize In Excel – A Step-By-Step Guide

Discover the ways of effective data management and arranging in this detailed tutorial on How to alphabetize in Excel.

When talking about spreadsheets and data crunching, one thing holds true: organization is key. Imagine having a jumbled collection of names, numbers, or items you need to make sense of quickly. This is where Excel comes to the rescue, offering a simple yet powerful solution to bring order to your data chaos.

If you’ve ever wondered how to alphabetize in Excel, you’re in the right place. This article is your guide to learning this essential skill – a skill that can save you time, reduce stress, and make your data management tasks a breeze.

Have you ever needed to sort a list of names or organize a list of products? Maybe you’re compiling survey results or creating a bibliography. Whatever your task, Excel’s alphabetizing feature can be your best friend. So, if you’re ready to bring order to your data and impress your colleagues or teachers with neatly arranged information, let’s dive into the world of alphabetization in Excel.

Table of Contents

What is alphabetization in Excel?

Microsoft Excel is a versatile tool that empowers individuals and businesses to organize, analyze, and make sense of vast data. Whether compiling a list of contacts, managing inventory, or arranging project tasks, alphabetizing your data can significantly enhance your data management prowess.

As the term suggests, Alphabetizing involves arranging your data in a systematic order based on the letters in the alphabet. This seemingly simple task can yield remarkable benefits, making locating specific information, identifying trends, and drawing insights from your data easier.

Alphabetization can be particularly useful when dealing with large sets of information. Imagine a list of customer, product, or employee names scattered throughout your spreadsheet. Finding a specific entry could be like searching for a needle in a haystack without proper organization. However, by alphabetizing your data, you can effortlessly bring order to the chaos and swiftly locate the necessary details.

Alphabetizing in Excel using the ribbon menu

Alphabetizing data using the Ribbon Menu is a straightforward process that requires just a few clicks. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

Step 1: Selecting the data range

Begin by selecting the range of cells you want to alphabetize. Click on the first cell and drag your cursor to the last cell in the range.

Step 2: Access the sort dialog box

Head to the ‘Data’ tab on the Excel Ribbon Menu. Look for the ‘Sort & Filter’ group and click on the ‘Sort A to Z’ button. This action will open the Sort dialog box.

Step 3: Choosing the sort column and order

You can choose which column you want to sort in the Sort dialog box. If your data has headers, check the ‘My data has headers’ box. Select the column you want to alphabetize from the ‘Sort by’ dropdown menu.

Step 4: Applying the alphabetization

Once you’ve chosen the column to sort, click the ‘OK’ button.

Finally, your data is now alphabetized based on the selected column.

How do I sort columns alphabetically in Excel to keep rows together? – Sorting rows with multiple columns

You may need to sort your data based on more than one column. Excel makes this possible, and here’s how you can do it:

Primary and secondary sorting

You may need to establish a clear hierarchy for sorting when dealing with multiple columns. This ensures that your data is arranged logically, aligning with your requirements. Primary sorting takes precedence, and secondary sorting comes into play when primary values match. This dynamic combination of primary and secondary criteria can finely tune your data arrangement to match your needs.

To alphabetize with multiple columns, imagine you have a list of books with authors and titles. You can sort by the author’s last name (primary) and then by the book title (secondary). This ensures that if two authors have the same last name, their books will be sorted alphabetically by title.

Custom sorting criteria

If you want to get even more specific, Excel allows you to create custom sorting criteria. For example, you can sort names based on the second word, particularly useful when sorting names like “Mary Jane Smith.” By selecting the second word as the sorting criterion, Excel will arrange the names based on “Jane.”

Alphabetizing data in Excel can be a manageable task. With these simple steps, you can keep your information organized and readily accessible. As you explore more features of Excel, you’ll find that alphabetization is just one of the many tools that can help you make the most out of your data.

Sorting specific data types in Excel

Different data types require different sorting approaches. Here’s how Excel handles various data types:

Text and Alphanumeric values

When dealing with names, titles, or text-based information, Excel’s alphabetization prowess is extraordinary. It intuitively arranges text and alphanumeric values in A to Z order. For instance, if you have a list of movie titles, ranging from “Avatar” to “Zodiac,” Excel will seamlessly sort them for you. No more manual rearranging!

Dates and times

Excel doesn’t break a sweat when it comes to sorting dates and times. If you have a list of important dates or scheduling details, rest assured that Excel will efficiently arrange them chronologically. From the earliest date to the latest, your calendar will be effortlessly organized.

Numbers and numeric values

Whether you’re dealing with sales figures, ages, or any numeric values, Excel can help you arrange them in ascending or descending order. Say goodbye to manual calculations – Excel’s numerical wizardry ensures your data is neatly aligned.

Sorting options and advanced features

Excel’s sorting capabilities go beyond basic alphabetization. Here are some advanced features to explore:

Case-sensitive sorting

Want to distinguish between uppercase and lowercase letters? Excel lets you perform case-sensitive sorting. For example, “apple” and “Apple” would be treated as separate entries, giving you precise control over your data’s arrangement.

Sorting by cell color or icon

Excel’s versatility extends beyond characters and numbers. You can sort your data based on cell color or icons, a nifty feature when you want to highlight specific entries. This could be used for prioritizing tasks, categorizing items, or identifying outliers.

Sorting by cell font or format

Excel’s depth becomes more apparent as you delve into sorting by font or format. Imagine a list of contact information where you want to prioritize bolded names. Excel can do that. It enables you to customize your sorting criteria down to the finest details.

How to maintain data integrity during sorting in Excel

Excel’s consideration for data integrity extends to sorting actions. Here’s how you can ensure consistency:

Expanding sort range

Sometimes, your data extends beyond what’s initially visible. Fear not – Excel allows you to expand your sort range effortlessly. Just select the new range, and the alphabetization magic continues.

Keeping rows together

Ever wanted to sort a table while keeping related rows intact? Excel grants you this power. Suppose you have a list of students with their grades. By selecting the ‘Expand the selection’ option, Excel ensures that a student’s name and grade stay together, even after sorting.

How to undo and redo sort actions in Excel

Picture this: you’ve meticulously sorted your data, only to realize that a certain column should have been your primary sort criterion. Fret not because Excel’s got your back.

Have you ever found yourself muttering, “Oh, I wish there was a shortcut to undo this mess!” Well, here’s the good news – there indeed is. The shortcut to undo your last sort action is as simple as pressing Ctrl + Z (Command + Z on Mac). Just like that, your data is back to its original unsorted state.

But what if you change your mind again? Don’t worry. The shortcut to redo your last undo action is Ctrl + Y (Command + Y on Mac). So you can confidently experiment with sorting without the fear of irreversible consequences.

Sorting worksheets and multiple sheets in Excel

When dealing with extensive data, efficient sorting methods are vital:

Sorting entire worksheets

Sometimes, you need a grand reshuffling of your entire worksheet. Maybe it’s a student list that needs to be reorganized or a product inventory that requires a fresh arrangement. Here’s how to sort an entire worksheet:

  1. Click on any cell within the data you want to sort.
  2. Head over to the ‘Data’ tab on the Ribbon.
  3. Click the ‘Sort’ button. Excel will intelligently detect the range of your data.
  4. Choose your sorting criteria and order in the Sort dialog box. Click ‘OK.’

Finally, your entire worksheet will seamlessly transform.

Sorting data across multiple sheets

Imagine a scenario where you have data spread across multiple sheets, and you want to bring them all into harmony. Excel doesn’t falter here, either. Let’s say you have multiple sheets with student scores, and you want to sort them all by last name:

  1. Select the first sheet tab.
  2. Perform the usual sorting steps for that sheet.
  3. Move on to the next sheet tab.
  4. Repeat the sorting process.
  5. Continue this process for all sheets.

Now, your data across multiple sheets is aligned and organized how you want.

Common sorting challenges and solutions in Excel

Every data management journey has its obstacles. Excel’s versatility addresses these challenges:

1- Handling blank cells

Blank cells can disrupt sorting and lead to unexpected results. To combat this, place a placeholder value, such as “N/A,” in empty cells. After sorting, you can quickly identify and filter out these placeholders.

2- Sorting formulas and functions

If your data includes formulas or functions, Excel might sort the calculated values rather than the original data. To avoid this, consider copying and pasting the calculated values into a new column before sorting.

3- Sorting merged cells

Merged cells can pose challenges during sorting, often leading to misaligned data. To address this, unmerge cells before sorting and apply the same value to the corresponding unmerged cells in the column.

4- Maintaining consistency

Ensure consistent formatting and structure to prevent sorting errors when sorting data across multiple sheets or workbooks. Verify that your sorting columns have the same data types and formatting.

Sorting pivot tables and dynamic ranges in Excel

Excel’s sorting extends to complex features like pivot tables and dynamic ranges:

Sorting pivot table fields

Pivot tables offer a dynamic way to analyze data, but sorting within them can be different. To sort data within a pivot table, click on the arrow next to the field you want to sort and choose the desired sorting option.

Sorting dynamic data ranges

Excel’s dynamic named ranges allow you to sort evolving data with ease. Define a dynamic range using formulas like OFFSET or INDEX, and Excel will automatically adjust the range as new data is added.

Keyboard shortcuts for quick sorting in Excel

Excel accelerate sorting with convenient keyboard shortcuts:

Alt + A + S: This shortcut opens the Sort dialog box, giving you access to various sorting options and criteria.

Ctrl + Shift + L: Quickly apply or remove filters to your data, allowing you to refine your sorting choices.

Alt + H + S: Sort the selected range in ascending order, quickly rearranging your data alphabetically.

Shift + Space + Alt + S: This handy shortcut allows you to quickly sort columns without navigating through menus. Select the column you want to sort and use this shortcut to activate the Sort dialog box.

Sorting alternatives in Excel

While the conventional method of alphabetizing data is well-known, Excel offers a range of alternatives that can elevate your sorting prowess. Let’s explore some of these lesser-known options:

Sort from the ribbon menu

In addition to right-clicking and selecting the “Sort” option, you can also use the Ribbon menu for sorting. Navigate to the “Data” tab, click on the “Sort” button, and a world of sorting possibilities unfolds before you.

Sort by icon

Excel allows you to sort your data based on icons. This is particularly useful when you have data with icons representing different categories or statuses. For example, if you’re managing a task list, you can sort tasks based on priority icons – a star for high priority, an exclamation mark for urgent tasks, and so on.

Sort by custom lists

Did you know that Excel lets you create and apply custom sorting orders? This is particularly handy when you want to sort data according to specific criteria unique to your dataset. Imagine sorting a list of countries in the order of their importance for a geography project – Excel’s custom lists have got you covered.

Sorting in tables

Utilizing Excel tables amplifies your sorting capabilities. Not only can you sort by specific columns, but you can also use filter buttons to refine your sorting criteria. This dynamic feature streamlines your sorting process and enhances data visualization.

Best Practices for alphabetizing data in Excel

While Excel offers many sorting options, adopting best practices ensures a seamless and effective sorting experience. Here are some golden rules to follow:

1- Cleanse your data

Before embarking on the sorting journey, ensure your data is consistent and error-free. Remove duplicates, correct spelling mistakes, and verify formatting to avoid discrepancies during sorting.

2- Define a clear sort range

Select the specific range of data you want to sort. Avoid including unrelated headers or data that might lead to unintended sorting outcomes.

3- Primary and secondary sorting

When sorting data with multiple columns, establish a clear hierarchy of sorting criteria. For instance, if you’re managing a class roster, sort by last name as the primary criterion and by first name as the secondary criterion to maintain a logical order.

4- Avoid merged cells

Merged cells can lead to confusion during sorting. Unmerge cells before sorting to ensure accurate alignment of data.

5- Utilize freeze panes

If your dataset is extensive, consider freezing panes to keep column headers visible while scrolling through the sorted data. This helps maintain context and clarity.

6- Data backup

Before sorting, create a backup copy of your data. This precautionary step ensures you can revert to the original order in case of unexpected sorting outcomes.

Excel alphabetical order with formulas

1- Alphabetize by Last Name

Sorting by last name in a list of names is a common need, and Excel’s formulas make it a breeze:

Separating First and Last Names

Suppose you have a column with full names and want to sort them by last name. Start by creating separate columns for first and last names using formulas like LEFT() and RIGHT(). For example

John Doe John Doe
Jane Smith Jane Smith

Once the names are split, you can sort the data by the last name column.

Using the MID formula

Another approach is to use the MID() formula to extract the last name. Let’s say your full names are in column A. In an adjacent column, use the formula =MID(A1,FIND(” “,A1)+1,LEN(A1)-FIND(” “,A1)) to extract the last name. For example:

John Doe Doe
Jane Smith Smith

Then, sort the data based on the last name column.

2- Alphabetize each row individually

Imagine a scenario where you have multiple pieces of information in each row, and you want to alphabetize each row independently:

Using the CONCATENATE formula

Create a new column next to your data. Use the CONCATENATE() function to combine all the values in each row into a single cell. For example;

John Doe john@abc 555-1234 John Doe john@abc 555-1234
Jane Smith jane@abc 555-5678 Jane Smith jane@abc 555-5678

Once the data is combined, you can apply standard sorting to alphabetize each row.

Using the TEXTJOIN formula

If you’re using Excel 2016 or later versions, the TEXTJOIN() function simplifies combining data from different cells. The formula =TEXTJOIN(” “, TRUE, A1:E1) would combine the data in columns A to E with spaces. For example;


John Doe john@abc 555-1234
Jane Smith jane@abc 555-5678

Afterward, sort the rows to alphabetize them.

3- Sort Each Column Alphabetically

Sometimes, you may want to sort each column individually while keeping the corresponding values intact:

Using Array Formulas

For this method, we’ll use an array formula to sort each column separately. Assuming your data is in columns A to D, create a new range of columns and use the formula {=SORT(A1:A10)} in the new range. Copy this formula to the other columns, and each column will be sorted alphabetically while maintaining row integrity.

John   Doe    john@abc 555-1234
Jane Smith jane@abc 555-5678

Using Excel Tables

Convert your data into an Excel Table, and Excel’s built-in features will simplify column-wise sorting. Select your data, go to the “Insert” tab, and choose “Table.” Once your data is in a table format, click the drop-down arrow in the column header, and select “Sort A to Z” to alphabetize the column.


Alphabetization in Excel is far more than arranging data in alphabetical order. It’s a powerful tool that empowers you to organize, analyze, and draw insights from your data. With a deep understanding of Excel’s sorting features, you can effortlessly navigate through datasets of all sizes, ensuring that information is structured, accessible, and insightful.

Remember, alphabetization’s magic is not merely sorting data but unlocking its potential for informed decision-making. By knowing how to alphabetize in Excel, you can excel in data organization, analysis, and the pursuit of excellence in your professional endeavors.