How to Alphabetize in Google Docs

A list of items often becomes most useful when you alphabetize the items. Alphabetical lists are great for a variety of reasons, as they give authors an easy way to create a list without having to emphasize any one item over another.

If writing a document in a Google Doc that contains a list, you may be wondering how to alphabetize in Google Docs. Rather than creating the alphabetized list in your head or by hand on a piece of paper and then typing it into the Google Doc, you can use the Google Docs software to create the alphabetical list. Just type the list quickly and let the software do the work for you.

We’ll provide several tips to help you figure out how to alphabetize in Google Docs, saving you time and effort.

What Can Be Alphabetized in Google Docs?

Understanding which items will work well for alphabetizing in Google Docs will help you use this feature effectively. However, you will not be able to alphabetize directly in Google Docs without making use of add-on software (which we’ll discuss later).

Alphabetizing Individual Items

When choosing to create an alphabetized list in Google Docs, you can alphabetize individual paragraphs, lines of text, or words. The length of each individual item that you will be alphabetizing does not matter.

Google Docs will sort each item — consisting of a word or line or paragraph — individually. You’ll indicate a new item by using the Enter key. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve placed a blank line between each item that you will be alphabetizing (by hitting the Enter key twice). Google Docs will ignore the blank lines when doing the alphabetizing. (Google Docs actually places the blank lines at the top of the list.)

Creating an Ordered List With Numbers

If you’re looking to create a list of numbers in your Google Doc based on the value of the numbers, you will have to use one of the methods we’ll discuss later in this article.

Within Google Docs, the alphabetizing feature (through the Sorting Paragraphs add-on) treats every item as a text string, rather than as a value, even if it only consists of numbers. When alphabetizing text strings with numbers in them, Google Docs will alphabetize digit 0 through digit 9 before letter A through letter Z.

Additionally, if your items in the list for alphabetizing start with symbols, those will appear before items that start with numbers or letters in the alphabetized list.

Step by Step Guide to Alphabetizing in Google Docs

Here are the steps you should follow when learning how to alphabetize in Google Docs.

Installing the Sorted Paragraphs Add-on

Before you can begin alphabetizing within any of your Google Docs, you will need to install the free Sorted Paragraphs add-on. (If you already have this add-on installed, you will see Sorted Paragraphs listed under the Add-ons menu. If you don’t see it listed, you’ll need to install it.) Google Docs does not have a sorting or alphabetizing feature built into it natively.

Open the Google Doc with the list that you want to alphabetize. Click on the Add-ons menu, followed by Get Add-ons. This will open the Google Workspace Marketplace window. In the search bar at the top of the window, enter Sorted Paragraphs and hit the Enter key.

Click on the Sorted Paragraphs icon. Then click the Install button. (You may need to click the Continue button to verify your selection.)

Select the primary Google account in which to install the Sorted Paragraphs add-on. (You may need to click the Allow button to verify your selection.) Once the installation finishes (which should take less than 15 seconds), click Done. Click X to close the Sorted Paragraphs installation window.

Making Use of the Sorted Paragraphs Add-on

Highlight the text that you want to sort. Press CTRL-A to highlight all of the text, or press and hold the mouse button, dragging the cursor to highlight a section of the text.

Then click the Add-ons menu and click on Sorted Paragraphs. In the popup menu that appears to the right, you can choose to alphabetize in one of two ways:

  • A to Z
  • Z to A (backwards)

After clicking on one of the two choices, you’ll see a black box with the word “Working” displayed at the bottom of the screen. Within a few seconds, Google Docs then will display the list in alphabetical order. (Longer lists could take quite a bit more time.)

If you don’t like the way the new list looks, press CTRL-Z to return to the look the text had before you alphabetized it. Certain types of text in Google Docs do not look great after alphabetizing, such as bullet lists or text that has headings in it.

4 Reasons Why You Should Alphabetize

Here are four reasons why you may want to alphabetize a list in your Google Doc.

Assigning No Specific Importance to Any One Item in the List

When creating a list in Google Docs, you may type the items quickly without worrying much about how someone reading the list later will digest it.

However, think about how you look at and comprehend lists. If the list has no obvious reason for the order of the items, you probably will assume the list of items contains the most important item first with each item being less important as you move down the list.

When creating your list, you may not want to apply extra emphasis on any particular item in the list. The best way to accomplish this is to alphabetize the list. The reader will see an alphabetized list and assume that no single item has more importance than other items.

Simplifying Finding One Item

When those reading the list are looking for a specific item in the list, having an alphabetized list makes it easier to find the item. People can scroll through the list until they reach the area where they expect to find the particular item they’re seeking.

For example, if people on a committee each have a specific task they need to complete, you can create an alphabetical list by name with the task listed after the name. A person then can scroll through the list quickly, finding his or her name and the task he or she has.

Removing Randomness

Sometimes when creating a document, you just need to give it a sense of order. One of the ways to do this is to create alphabetized lists throughout the document. Even if you don’t really need to alphabetize the items, doing so will give the document a feeling of organization.

Ensuring You Didn’t Skip Any Items in the List

If you’re creating a long list of items over a series of days from several original input lists, you may have concerns about omitting an item inadvertently.

Alphabetizing the list after typing all of the items into it can help you easily double-check that you have not forgotten any item or that you did not create double entries by accident.

After alphabetizing the list, compare it to each item from your original input lists. The comparison process will go faster when you can work from an alphabetized list.

3 Other Ways to Alphabetize

You may not want to install the Sorted Paragraphs add-on, as some people don’t trust add-on software. This means you’ll need another option for alphabetizing lists within Google Docs.

We mentioned that you could alphabetize your lists by hand on a piece of paper before typing the information into Google Docs, but this is not an efficient option. Instead, here are three ways to use other pieces of software to create an alphabetized list before copying it into your Google Doc.

Sorting Numbers as Values in Google Sheets

As we mentioned earlier, Google Docs does not sort numbers as values, treating them as text strings instead. If you’d prefer to have numbers sorted as values, you can enter the numbers into Google Sheets, sort them as values in the spreadsheet, and then copy the numbers into the Google Doc after sorting them. (By default, Google Sheets treats numbers as values, rather than as text strings.)

To sort in Google Sheets, open a new spreadsheet. Enter each value in a different cell, listing them vertically in the cells (so all of them remain in the same column).

Highlight the cells that contain the values you want to sort. Click the Data menu, followed by Sort Range by Column (either by A to Z to have the smallest numbers on the top or by Z to A to have the largest numbers on the top).

After sorting the values, highlight the cells that you want to copy. Press CTRL-C to copy the highlighted cells.

Open your Google Doc. Place the cursor in the document where you want to paste the sorted values. Right-click on the screen and left-click on Paste Without Formatting. This will place the values in the document, and they will look like you typed them into the document yourself. (If you paste them with formatting, they will appear in the Google Doc with a box around each number, looking like cells from a spreadsheet.)

Sort in Microsoft Word

If you have Microsoft Word available, you could sort your items in Word first and then paste them into your Google Doc. (Word natively supports sorting and alphabetizing.)

Enter the text you want to alphabetize in Microsoft Word. Separate the items that you want to alphabetize by pressing the Enter key after each item. Highlight the text to sort.

Click the Home menu. Look in the Paragraph area of the popup menu to find the Sort button (marked with a downward pointing arrow to the right of an A and Z stacked on top of each other).

In the Sort Text window, you can select whether you want to sort the text by Ascending (A to Z) or Descending (Z to A) order. Click OK to sort the text.

With the items alphabetized, you then can highlight them in Word and press CTRL-C. Open your Google Doc and place the cursor where you want to paste the alphabetized text. Right-click to open a popup menu and left-click on Paste Without Formatting to paste the list into the Google Doc.

Sort With the Word Counter Website

As another option for alphabetizing your information before pasting it into your Google Doc, you can use the Word Counter website’s Alphabetize Tool window.

If you have a list of items you want to alphabetize typed into your Google Doc, highlight the items and press CTRL-C to copy them. Open the Word Counter Alphabetize Tool website. Paste the items into the Input List text box by pressing CTRL-V.

If you pressed the Enter key between each line of text for sorting, click the New Line button. Then click the Alphabetize button on the left side of the window, and the website will alphabetize all of the text in the window.

Click the Copy to Clipboard button below the text box to copy all of the alphabetized items. Open your Google Doc again. Place the cursor in the document where you want to paste the list. Press CTRL-V, and the alphabetized list will appear in the document.

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Bryan Wise
Bryan Wise,
Former VP of IT at GitLab

Incredible companies use Nira