With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company.
Learn more about Allen...
Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Sorting ZIP Codes.
ZIP Codes come in two flavors: five-digit codes and nine-digit codes. If you type a column of ZIP Codes into Excel—some five-digits and some nine—you may wonder why they don't sort correctly.
The reason is that Excel recognizes the five-digit codes as numeric entries and the nine-digit codes as text entries. (It is the dash in the middle of the nine-digit codes that makes Excel treat the entry as text.) The problem with sorting the numbers is that Excel treats numeric and text values differently when sorting.
The solution (without resorting to formulas and additional columns for sorting) is to make sure that you force Excel to treat all your entries as text. You can do this by formatting a column as text before putting in your first ZIP Code. Simply follow these steps:
Figure 1. The Number tab of the Format Cells dialog box.
This formats the cells as text, and you can then sort the ZIP Codes correctly. Don't be misled here, however: You must make the format change before you enter values in the cells. If you format the cells as text after you enter information, they still won't sort properly. You can do the following, however:
Once this process is done, you can sort the cells, as desired.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2793) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Sorting ZIP Codes.
Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!