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: Ignoring Selected Words when Sorting.

Ignoring Selected Words when Sorting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 17, 2017)


Arn has a need to exclude certain words when sorting a column. For instance, he is trying to exclude 'The' when sorting a list of movie titles, so that "Alpha, Charlie, The Bravo" would sort as "Alpha, The Bravo, Charlie."

There is no built-in way to do this. The best solution is to set up an intermediate column for your data. This column can contain the modified movie titles, and you can sort by the contents of the column. For instance, if column A contains your original movie titles, you could fill column B with formulas, such as this:

=IF(LEFT(A1,4)="The ",MID(A1,5,LEN(A1)-4),A1)

This formula will strip the word "The" (with its trailing space) from the start of the line. If you want to add the word "The" at the end of the string, then you could modify the formula in the following manner:

=IF(LEFT(A1,4)="The ",MID(A1,5,50),A1) & ", The"

If you wanted to delete all instances of the word "the" without regard to where it appeared in the title, you could use the following instead:

=SUBSTITUTE(A1,"the ","")

Sorting, again, would be done by the results shown in column B. This will give the list in the desired order.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3892) 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: Ignoring Selected Words when Sorting.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

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. ...


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What is 1 + 5?

2016-01-15 02:56:47


Your example formula:
=IF(LEFT(A1,4)="The ",MID(A1,5,50),A1) & ", The"
is actually incorrect. It removes "The" if it's there, but adds ", The" only if the original string did NOT start with 'The'.

Should be:
=IF(LEFT(A1,4)="The ",MID(A1,5,50) & ", The",A1)

2015-09-05 11:47:48

Anthony E

Hey Jack!

To your formula -- how do you do the same for the letter "A," and the word "An?"

I want to do it for all 3, except I am having an issue in excel. I think it is because of how many parenthesis I put in the formula. Is there anyone you can send me an entire "IF" FORMULA?


2015-04-18 14:00:37


Perfect solution to my problem! Thank you!

2012-08-04 05:03:17


This is an excellent tip. This is the full formula I used and then filled down:

=IF(LEFT(A2,4)="The ",MID(A2,5,LEN(A2)-4)&", The",A2)

2012-08-03 15:44:06


It would be helpful if you include a particular example to apply the formula. Thanks!

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