How to Sort by Two Columns in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Sorting data in Excel is like cleaning up your room; it makes everything easier to find. To sort by two columns in Excel, you first need to highlight your data, go to the ‘Sort & Filter’ option, and add two levels of sorting. This quick guide will show you how to organize your spreadsheet like a pro.

How to Sort by Two Columns in Excel

In this section, we’ll walk you through the steps to sort by two columns in Excel. Following these steps will make your data more manageable and easy to read, helping you find information faster.

Step 1: Highlight Your Data

First, select the range of cells that you want to sort.

When you highlight your data, make sure you include all the rows and columns that you want to organize. Missing out any cells may result in incomplete sorting.

Step 2: Go to the ‘Sort & Filter’ Option

Next, head over to the ‘Data’ tab on the top menu and click the ‘Sort & Filter’ option.

This opens up a variety of sorting options. You’ll see ‘Sort A to Z,’ ‘Sort Z to A,’ and ‘Custom Sort.’ For sorting by two columns, you’ll need ‘Custom Sort.’

Step 3: Choose ‘Custom Sort’

Click on ‘Custom Sort’ to open the Sort dialog box.

This box allows you to add multiple levels of sorting. It’s like setting up a hierarchy for how you want your data to be organized.

Step 4: Add First Level of Sorting

In the Sort dialog box, select the first column you want to sort by. Choose the order as well (A to Z or Z to A).

This first level will be the primary sorting criterion. For example, if you choose to sort by "Last Name," all the data will be sorted based on the last names first.

Step 5: Add Second Level of Sorting

Click on ‘Add Level’ to add a second sorting criterion. Select the next column and choose the sorting order.

This second level acts as a secondary filter. For example, if you sorted by "Last Name" first, you might sort by "First Name" second. This way, within each last name, the first names will also be sorted.

Step 6: Apply Sorting

Once you’ve set up your sorting levels, click ‘OK’ to sort the data.

After clicking ‘OK,’ Excel will reorder the data based on the criteria you set. Your spreadsheet should now look much more organized.

After completing these steps, your data will be neatly sorted first by the primary column and then by the secondary column. This will make it a lot easier to read and analyze.

Tips for Sorting by Two Columns in Excel

  • Check for Blank Rows: Make sure there are no blank rows in your data range, as these can disrupt the sorting process.
  • Use Headers: Having clear headers can make it easier to identify which columns to sort.
  • Backup Your Data: Always make a backup before sorting to prevent data loss.
  • Consistent Formatting: Ensure that the data in your columns is consistently formatted for accurate sorting.
  • Sorting Order: Think carefully about the order in which you sort; the first criterion often has the most impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I sort by more than two columns?

Yes, you can add additional levels in the ‘Custom Sort’ dialog box.

What happens if I sort without selecting all data?

Only the highlighted data will be sorted, which can mess up your dataset.

Can I sort by both numbers and text?

Yes, Excel can handle sorting by different types of data in the same operation.

How do I undo a sort?

You can press ‘Ctrl + Z’ to undo the last action, including sorting.

Does sorting affect formulas?

Sorting changes the order of data but does not alter any formulas that reference that data.


  1. Highlight your data.
  2. Go to the ‘Sort & Filter’ option.
  3. Choose ‘Custom Sort.’
  4. Add the first level of sorting.
  5. Add the second level of sorting.
  6. Apply sorting.


Sorting by two columns in Excel doesn’t have to be complicated. Just follow the steps outlined above, and you’ll have a neatly organized spreadsheet in no time. Remember to check for blank rows, use headers, and always make a backup of your data before making changes.

Excel is a powerful tool for data management, and knowing how to sort by two columns is just one of many skills that can make your work easier. With these tips and steps, you’ll be able to handle even the most complex datasets like a pro. So go ahead, open up that spreadsheet, and start organizing your data today! For more advanced tips, consider exploring other Excel features like conditional formatting or pivot tables. Happy sorting!

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