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

Sorting Two Columns in Excel

Sorting two columns in Excel can be a breeze if you know the right steps. It’s all about selecting the data, choosing the sort options, and then letting Excel do the heavy lifting. With just a few clicks, you can have your data looking neat and organized.

How to Sort Two Columns in Excel

Sorting two columns in Excel will help you organize your data seamlessly. You can sort by one column and then sort by the second column to enhance the precision and clarity of your data presentation.

Step 1: Select Your Data

Highlight the range of cells that you want to sort, including both columns.

Make sure you select the entire area that you want to sort, not just one column. This ensures that all data stays properly aligned. A common mistake is to select only one column, which messes up your data.

Step 2: Open the Sort Dialog Box

Go to the "Data" tab and click on the "Sort" button.

The "Sort" button is found in the "Sort & Filter" group under the "Data" tab. When you click it, a dialog box will appear, giving you multiple options to customize your sort.

Step 3: Add a Sort Level

Click on the "Add Level" button in the sort dialog box.

This feature allows you to sort by multiple columns. For instance, you might want to sort first by the "Last Name" column and then by the "First Name" column.

Step 4: Choose Your First Sort Column

Select the primary column you want to sort by from the dropdown menu.

This is where you decide which column takes precedence. If you need your data sorted primarily by dates, select the date column here.

Step 5: Choose Your Second Sort Column

Click "Add Level" again and select the second column you want to sort by.

After choosing your primary column, you can specify the secondary one. This secondary sort will break ties in the primary column.

Step 6: Specify Sort Order

Choose whether you want each column sorted in ascending or descending order.

This final step asks you to set the order—either A to Z or Z to A, depending on your needs. Make sure your choice aligns with your data presentation goals.

Once you’ve completed these steps, your data will be sorted first by the primary column and then by the secondary column, giving you a beautifully organized dataset.

Tips for Sorting Two Columns in Excel

  • Include Headers: Always make sure to include headers in your selection to avoid sorting them with your data.
  • Backup Your Data: Before sorting, it’s wise to create a copy of your data to avoid any accidental data loss.
  • Check for Blanks: Blanks in your columns can disrupt the sorting process; ensure all fields are filled.
  • Use Conditional Formatting: To visualize the sorted data better, apply conditional formatting.
  • Save frequently: Regularly saving your work can help prevent data loss in case of unexpected issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my data gets messed up after sorting?

If your data gets jumbled, you can use the "Undo" button (Ctrl+Z) to revert to your previous state.

Can I sort by more than two columns?

Yes, you can add multiple levels in the sort dialog box to sort by more than two columns.

What does "Sort A to Z" mean?

"Sort A to Z" means sorting data in ascending order, from the smallest value to the largest, or alphabetically from A to Z.

How do I sort numbers?

Sorting numbers follows the same steps. Just make sure to choose the column containing numeric data.

Can I sort data with merged cells?

No, sorting doesn’t work well with merged cells. Unmerge cells first for a proper sort.


  1. Select your data
  2. Open the sort dialog box
  3. Add a sort level
  4. Choose your first sort column
  5. Choose your second sort column
  6. Specify sort order


Sorting two columns in Excel is a fundamental skill that enhances data readability and organization. By following these simple steps, you can ensure your data is systematically arranged, making it easier to analyze and present. With the sort feature, you can bring order to the chaos, turning a tangled mess of information into a clear, coherent dataset.

Remember to make use of the "Add Level" feature to sort by multiple columns effectively. This small but mighty tool in Excel can save you hours of manual sorting.

So next time you’re faced with a cluttered spreadsheet, don’t stress! Just follow these steps to sort two columns in Excel and watch your data transform into something manageable and professional. Whether you’re a student, a professional, or someone who just loves organizing data, mastering this skill is a game-changer. Happy sorting!

Get Our Free Newsletter

How-to guides and tech deals

You may opt out at any time.
Read our Privacy Policy