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Excel Sort

Sorting in Excel lets you easily reorder your data based on the type of sorting that you choose. This lesson will show you how to do a normal and reverse alphabetical sort, as well as descending numerical ordering.

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Raw Unordered Data

Imagine that you were teaching an English class and just collected the homework assignment for that day. The papers are in no special order, but you know that Excel can sort it all out for you anyways. You plough through the jumble of papers and enter the data into Excel, ending up with something that looks like...

With the data enetered you are now ready to begin sorting in Excel.

Excel Sorting: Alphabetical Order (Ascending)

The most common type of sorting, and one that is applicable to our situation, is alphabetical ordering. This kind of ordering places the cells that start with the early letters of the alphabet (a, b, c...) at the top and the later letters (t, u, v...) at the bottom of the list.

  1. First we need to select all the data so we can begin to sort it. Because each name has a corresponding score we need to select both columns to preserve the students' correct scores.
  2. Left-click and hold on cell A1 then drag down-right to cell B10 to highlight all the data for sorting! Your spreadsheet should look like this:

  3. Left-click the "sort ascending" button, located near the top, on the shortcut bar (it has a blue A on top and a red Z on bottom with a downward pointing arrow).

  4. Your spreadsheet should now be sorted.

Notice that your column titles (Name and Score) have not been included for sorting because Excel is smart enough to know that you do not want these special cells (A1 and B1) included.

Reverse Alphabetical Order (Descending)

The steps for reverse alphabetical order are the same as above, except that you need to click the "sort descending" button instead.

  1. Select the data you wish to sort (left-click in cell A1 and drag down-right to B10)

  2. Left-click the "sort descending" button, located near the top, on the shortcut bar (it has a red Z on top and a blue A on bottom downward pointing arrow).

  3. Your spreadsheet should now be sorted in reverse alphabetical order.

Numerical Ordering

If you wanted to instead sort the homework assignments by highest to lowest score you would follow these steps to use Excel's numeric sorting. The only difference between this example and our previous examples is which column you start your selection from, so pay close attention to the first step!

  1. Left-click cell B1 and drag down-left to cell A10

  2. Left-click the "sort descending" button, located near the top, on the shortcut bar (it has a red Z on top and a blue A on bottom with a downward pointing arrow).

  3. Your Excel data should now look like:

Congratulations, you now know how to sort columns of both numbers and words in Excel!

Generic Formatting in Excel

Sometimes you don't have the data set up nice and orderly like our above examples, which might make using Excel's quick sort buttons to fall flat on their face when attempting to sort your data. If you would like to access Excel's manual, and much more powerful, sorting option simply select "Data < Sort..." from the menu bar.

Note: Be sure that you select your data before going to the manual sorting feature. This will let Excel know which data you want to sort.

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