How to Sort Columns in Excel Without Mixing Up Your Data

Sorting columns in Excel without mixing data is a straightforward task once you get the hang of it. It involves highlighting the data you want to sort, navigating to the Data tab, and using the Sort option to organize your data without jumbling it up. In just a few clicks, you’ll have your data sorted exactly how you need it!

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Sort Columns in Excel Without Mixing Data

Before we dive into the steps, it’s important to know that sorting data helps you organize and analyze your data more efficiently. Whether you’re sorting alphabetically, numerically, or by date, Excel’s sort feature is a powerful tool that can help you make sense of your data.

Step 1: Select the Data You Want to Sort

Click and drag your mouse over the cells you want to sort, making sure to include the column headers.

Selecting the correct range of data is crucial. If you accidentally miss a column, your data could end up being mismatched. So take your time and double-check that you’ve highlighted all the necessary cells.

Step 2: Click the ‘Data’ Tab

Navigate to the ‘Data’ tab on the Excel ribbon located at the top of the screen.

The ‘Data’ tab is where all the magic happens when it comes to organizing your data. It’s home to a variety of tools that can help you sort, filter, and analyze your data.

Step 3: Click ‘Sort’

In the ‘Sort & Filter’ group, click on the ‘Sort’ button.

When you click ‘Sort’, a dialog box will pop up. This is where you’ll specify how you want to sort your data. Make sure you’re careful with your selections in the next steps to avoid any mix-ups.

Step 4: Choose Your Sort Criteria

In the Sort dialog box, select the column you want to sort by from the ‘Sort by’ dropdown menu, and choose the sort order.

You can sort by multiple columns if you’d like, just click ‘Add Level’ to add another sort criteria. Remember to consider how each column’s data will interact when sorted together.

Step 5: Expand the Selection

Before hitting ‘OK’, make sure to select the ‘Expand the selection’ option, so Excel knows to sort all the highlighted data together.

If you skip this step, Excel might only sort the single column you selected in Step 4, leaving the rest of your data scrambled. ‘Expand the selection’ ensures your rows stay intact and everything is sorted as a unit.

After completing these steps, your data should be sorted according to the criteria you’ve set. Your columns will remain aligned with the corresponding data, reducing the risk of any mix-ups.

Tips for Sorting Columns in Excel Without Mixing Data

  • Always ensure you include headers when selecting data to sort.
  • Take advantage of the ‘Undo’ feature (Ctrl + Z) if you make a mistake while sorting.
  • Use ‘Sort A to Z’ or ‘Sort Z to A’ for quick single-column alphabetical sorting.
  • Be mindful of data types when sorting; numbers, dates, and text may need different sorting criteria.
  • Save your work before sorting, just in case you need to revert back to the original data.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I only want to sort one column?

If you only want to sort one column, you still need to highlight the entire data set to keep everything lined up correctly. Just make sure to choose the correct column in the ‘Sort by’ dropdown.

Can I sort by more than one column?

Yes, you can sort by multiple columns. In the Sort dialog box, click ‘Add Level’ and choose another column and sort order.

What does ‘Sort A to Z’ and ‘Sort Z to A’ do?

‘Sort A to Z’ sorts the selected data in ascending order, while ‘Sort Z to A’ sorts in descending order.

Why should I use ‘Expand the selection’?

Using ‘Expand the selection’ ensures that all data in the highlighted range is sorted together, maintaining the integrity of your data set.

Can I sort data horizontally?

Excel primarily sorts data vertically, but you can use the ‘Sort’ dialog box to sort horizontally by selecting ‘Options’ and then choosing ‘Sort left to right’.


  1. Select the data including column headers.
  2. Go to the ‘Data’ tab.
  3. Click ‘Sort’.
  4. Set your sort criteria.
  5. Choose ‘Expand the selection’.


Sorting columns in Excel doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By following the steps outlined above, you can organize your data quickly and efficiently without the fear of mixing it up. Remember to always include your headers in the selection, use the ‘Expand the selection’ option, and double-check your sort criteria. And don’t forget those handy tips—they’re little lifesavers that can make the process even smoother. So why not give it a go? Get sorting and watch as your data becomes a neatly ordered treasure trove of information, all thanks to the powerful features of Excel. Keep practicing, and soon you’ll be sorting columns like a pro!

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