Skip to content

Sort a list of names by surname or more in Word

Microsoft Word sorting is more powerful than it appears, with a few extra clicks you can sort last names or anything else in a list.

Sort is one of those Word features that’s been around for a long time. These days it’s tucked away on Home tab in the Paragraph group.

Select a list or paragraphs then choose Home | Paragraph | Sort

My list has …  select Header row or No header row. In effect, does Word including the top line/row in the sort or not?

Default Sort in Word changes the order based on the first letters of each paragraph or line in ascending order (A to Z).

Here’s a list of the twelve men who walked the moon in that order, by first name.

Sort by last name

Sorting by surname or other word in each line is handled under the options button in the Sort dialog.

Separate fields at … tells Word how to break up each line or row into separate items or fields.

The default is Tabs but can be changed to Other with a single space. That will separate each line into a field for each word.

Click OK to return to the Sort menu then look at the Sort by pull-down list. There are now options to sort by the first, second or third word of each line – as separated by a space.

In this case all the surnames are the second word so Sort By … Word 2 will reorder the list into last names.

In the real world, sorting by names is more complicated Limitations of Word Sort feature for name sorting

Sort by multiple fields

Word can sort by more than one field or word.

And Word will detect if the field is text, number or date.

For example, sort by mission number then last name within that.

Limitations of Word Sort feature for name sorting

Save a sorting order for Word tables
Watch your sort and other Excel traps for the unwary
Quick Excel list sorting and filter buttons

About this author

Office Watch is the independent source of Microsoft Office news, tips and help since 1996. Don't miss our famous free newsletter.