Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Selecting Sentences.

Selecting Sentences

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 23, 2015)

Word does not provide function keys for you to step through your document one sentence at a time. If you are used to a different word processor, you may consider such a capability rather important. The following macro, StepRightSentence, provides the capability to step through a document one sentence at a time toward the right. You can assign the macro either to a shortcut key or to a toolbar button.

Sub StepRightSentence()
    If Selection.Type <> wdNoSelection Then
        Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1, Extend:=wdMove
    End If
    Selection.Sentences(1).Next(Unit:=wdSentence, Count:=1).Select
End Sub

If you want to use Word to step through a document toward the left (beginning of the document), you can use the following macro, StepLeftSentence:

Sub StepLeftSentence()
    If Selection.Type <> wdNoSelection Then
        Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1, Extend:=wdMove
    End If
    Selection.Sentences(1).Previous(Unit:=wdSentence, Count:=1).Select
End Sub

Regardless of which of these macros you use, the result is that you step through your document, one sentence at a time. After running the macro, the next sentence—left or right—is selected. If you instead want to only jump to the beginning of the sentence, without selecting it, add the following line as the final line in the macro, just before the End Sub statement:

    Selection.Collapse Direction:=wdCollapseStart

If you prefer to not use macros, you can also move through sentences by customizing Word to take advantage of some "hidden" commands. Follow these steps:

  1. Choose the Customize option from the Tools menu. Word displays the Customize dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  2. Figure 1. The Customize dialog box.

  3. Click on the Keyboard button. Word displays the Customize Keyboard dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  4. Figure 2. The Customize Keyboard dialog box.

  5. In the Categories list, choose All Commands.
  6. In the Commands list, choose SentLeft.
  7. Click in the Press New Shortcut Key box.
  8. Press Alt+Left Arrow.
  9. Click on Assign.
  10. Click on Close to dismiss the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
  11. Click on Close to close the Customize dialog box.

After performing this series of steps, you can step backwards through your document, one sentence at a time, simply by pressing Alt+Left Arrow. You can also repeat the steps and assign the following

Action Commands List Shortcut Key
Step right by sentences SentRight Alt+Right Arrow
Step left and select SentLeftExtend Shift+Alt+Left Arrow
Step right and select SentRightExtend Shift+Alt+Right Arrow

Most Word users will find these keyboard commands a welcome addition to the normal editing keys. You should know, however, that some of these suggested shortcut keys are already in use by Word. For instance, the Shift+Alt+Left Arrow combination is used to promote a heading level in an outline. However, if you can live without that use of the keys, then go for it. (Personally, I think this reassigned use makes much more sense.) If you would rather use a different key combination, you can do so by using any one you would like in step 6 above.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (979) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Selecting Sentences.

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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