Software

Quickly get rid of unwanted formatting in Word documents

Removing unwanted formats from a Word document doesn't require a lot of selecting and clicking—learn two quick and easy methods for removing formats.
You can spend a lot of time formatting content in a Word document and then even more time trying to get rid of it! You might select the content and click the appropriate icon or choose an item from the Format menu and continue on through the commands. Fortunately, all that work is unnecessary. There are two quick ways to remove formats:
  • The barebones style is Normal, and that's good to know when you need to get rid of formatting. Simply reset the content's style to Normal by choosing Normal from the Style control or pressing [Ctrl]+[Shift]+N. If you don't mind changing the style, this is an easy way to ditch formatting and start over.
  • If you want to remove only formats applied in addition to a style -- without changing the current style -- press [Ctrl]+Spacebar.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

21 comments
buickjim
buickjim

There is a slight error with the solution provided. Control + Space bar will reset the font formatting, of the selected text, only to the formatting specified in the style associated with the paragraph. I.e., it removes ONLY the directly applied font formatting. The missing keystroke is Control + Q which will reset the paragraph formatting, of the selected text, to the paragraph formatting specified in the style associated with the paragraph. I.e., it removes ONLY the directly applied paragraph formatting.

Zpunky
Zpunky

Given we're talking about Word formatting issues, is there a way to make the 'Paste' command default to 'Unformatted', so that anything I paste into a document from the Web or another formatting type gets pasted with my document's formatting?

paulbranchaud
paulbranchaud

Is there a quick/simple way to get rid of all the variants of a regularly used style? When I work with others, their versions invariably come back with "Normal + Arial + Bold" and "Normal + Arial 14pt + Bold", ad nauseam because they modified part or all of a paragraph and Word added it to the list of paragraph styles. A recent document came back to me with over a dozen variants of the same paragraph style. Can I protect my paragraph styles to prevent modifications or is there a way to quickly undo the stylistic damage done by others?

mattohare
mattohare

Ctrl+Shift+N will not take away formatting to parts of paragraphs. If a word or two in the paragraph has has a unique formatting (such as italics, bold, font change), it will retain it. To get rid of all the formatting, select the text, and choose Clear All from the Style Control. With the exception of table formatting, that will take you back to bare-bones normal.

staffordd
staffordd

Excellent advice. Ms. Harkins is at her best once again. Thank you Susan - and, excellent, positive, helpful reader comments - so thank you readers too. Carry on d

ArseneLupin
ArseneLupin

And if all else fails, cut the text (or the entire doc if you are in a bad mood :) and Paste Special as UNformatted text!

DeepNines
DeepNines

We will certainly try these suggestions.

Chomps
Chomps

How do I change the "normal" template so I have a new default DOT?

stapleb
stapleb

I had read all the replies and was despairing of finding the Ctrl+Q tip added to the Ctrl+Space. Make sure to set the Style to Normal, and you have a brand new document ready to have the correct Styles applied where required.

j.m.h
j.m.h

Of course, to reset all content in the document to underlying styles, select all (Ctrl + A), then remove additional para and font formatting. In my work, I receive dozens of documents with "make it big and bold" formatting in lieu of styles. Thanks for the keyboard shortcuts - I do this all the time, but with custom toolbar buttons. To ensure your styles are not "corrupted" by others' tampering, the best bet is to create and apply new, discrete styles saved into the document, or a completely different template altogether (if you will be applying these styles to other documents as well.)

Excelmann
Excelmann

Go to the Office button; Word Options: Advanced; Cut, Copy, and Paste; and there are four pasting options. They have worked for me.

j.m.h
j.m.h

I'd love to make this happen myself! My workaround: The keyboard shortcut is Alt+E, S, U; you can also create a custom toolbar button.

paulbranchaud
paulbranchaud

Close Word and Outlook (if you use Word as your email editor). Locate your normal.dot (or whatever your default template name is) and rename it to normal_dot.old (or something similar). When you restart Word, it will create a new, bare bones normal.dot

stapleb
stapleb

Another option is to delete Normal.dot. Word will automatically create a new one with all the initial settings returned.

Ray berry
Ray berry

If you find that there is something in your document that cannot be fixed by any of the normal procedures, such as formatting that does not disappear with 'clear formatting' or a page that displays but does not print (it happens), or a page setup that will just not apply to a 'Whole document' etc., copy all the text to the clipboard (CTRL-A, CTRL+C) and paste it into a text editor (e.g. Notepad), copy the text from there back on to the clipboard and paste it into a NEW Word document.

seanferd
seanferd

Name it old_normal.dot or something. Next, open a new document, make all the template changes you want, then save it as a template normal.dot. Or save it with a new name, then create a copy and rename it normal.dot. This is much easier if you just work up a document, making the changes you want as you go, then saving as a template (as well as saving it as a document, if you want that document).

Zpunky
Zpunky

I searched 'Help' for "unformatted text" which, of course, turned up nothing because that's not the nomenclature used to actually effect the the change to "unformatted text". Go figure. This is great, it will save me a lot of time.

kbrungraber
kbrungraber

The 2007 keyboard shortcut is Ctrl+Alt+V > U (though Alt > E > S > U still works). Just be careful not to press Ctrl+Alt+Del..;-)

Zpunky
Zpunky

"Go to the Office button; Word Options: Advanced; Cut, Copy, and Paste; and there are four pasting options. They have worked for me." I did this and changed the four drop down selections to "Match Destination Formatting". I wish they'd just use the same options "unformatted', 'HTML', etc., that they use in the actual 'Paste Special' command. Would make it easier to find it in Help. And thanks for the shortcut.

mattohare
mattohare

If the changes are just in some document you got from formatting-mad word super user, then all of the issues should be in that document. And, when you try to delete the normal.dot, you want to ensure Word and Outlook are shut down. Otherwise the file can be locked.

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