How to select text in MS Word – VERTICALLY

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This is a trick you can do with MS Word, that very few people know about. It can be handy in certain situations.

MS Word


What we’re talking about is being able to select and highlight certain text in a Word document.

You already know that if you double-click on a single word, that word is highlighted (selected). You might also know that if you TRIPLE click, the entire paragraph is selected. (If you didn’t know that, there’s a bonus tip for you this week.) You can click on a certain word and drag the cursor across several words, and just those words are selected. You can even do CTRL + A and select the entire document.

Then, whatever you have selected, you can do whatever you want with that text. You can cut and paste, copy and paste, change the font or size, or even delete it. Whatever action you take, it applies to ALL of the text you have selected.

But here’s a different scenario:

Let’s say you have a Word document, and the text in that document is a list of names. Each line is the last name, then a tab, then the first name. Like this:

selecting text in Word

For your purpose, you need to select ONLY the first names (the second column) in that list. How do you do that? If you start with the first one, John, and drag to select, as soon as you get to the second line you’ll see that it’s highlighting the whole second line (not just the first name, Elizabeth). What is the fix for this?

Well, for a list that is short like the one above, you could just hold down the CTRL key and double click each first name. That would achieve the goal. But what if this list contained 150 names? or 1500 names? Double clicking on each first name would take quite some time. And there’s a risk – you could spend a bunch of time double clicking and have 89 first names selected, then accidentally click without holding the CTRL key – that means you have DEselected all of them, and you have to start over from scratch.

But there’s a little-known trick that makes this process much easier. With a certain keyboard key combination, Word will allow you to select text vertically.

In our example, you can place the cursor just to the left of the letter “J” in “John”. Then, on the keyboard, hold down CTRL + ALT + Shift at the same time, and drag the cursor straight down. This allows you to highlight ONLY the first names on the list:

selecting text vertically

Now you can copy  those names into an Excel spreadsheet column, or print them, or do whatever you want with them.

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James Bentz
November 23rd, 2020

Dang, this a VERY COOL TIP!!

Thank you.