How to control copying and pasting in Microsoft Word

You can customize the formatting of pasted content before and after it's pasted in Microsoft Word. Here's how.

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Copying and pasting content in Microsoft Word can be a time-saver, but it can also be frustrating. Sometimes the content you paste doesn't retain or use the formatting you want. Other times, the pasted content affects the surrounding text.

The secret to using copy and paste in Word is to set it up properly ahead of time, but you can also control the content just before and just after you paste it. Let's look at how to control Word's copying and pasting. (I'm using the latest version of Microsoft Word from an Office 365 subscription, but the steps apply to the past few flavors of Word as well.)

SEE: 50 time-saving tips to speed your work in Microsoft Office (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Launch Microsoft Word on your PC and open a document with text--use a document that contains different text formatted with more than one font or attribute. Select a word or line of text with one type of font or attribute and move it to an area of text with different formatting. Position your cursor in the right spot and press the usual Ctrl/V to paste the text.

The pasted text either retains its original formatting or takes on the formatting of the surrounding text; either way, let's say the formatting is not what you want. Click the Paste Options button that appears right after you pasted the text. Hover your mouse over the different options, and you can choose to keep the source formatting, merge the formatting, paste it as a picture, or paste it as plain text (Figure A). Each option provides a preview to help you pick the right one. Click the option you want to use.

Figure A

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You can also select the right option before you paste it. Try the same maneuver again. This time, right-click in the area where you want to paste the selected text. Paste Options appears in the pop-up menu. Again, hover over each option for a preview and then select the one you want to use (Figure B).

Figure B

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Sometimes the pasted text changes the formatting for all the surrounding text in the paragraph. You can use the same Paste Options to solve this problem. Copy a selection of text and then move your cursor to the middle of a paragraph with different formatting. Instead of using the old Ctrl/V move, right-click the area where you want to paste the text. Then hover your mouse over the different Paste Option choices to select the proper formatting (Figure C). In this case, choosing either Merge Formatting or Keep Text Only should do the trick.

Figure C

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You can also change the default options and other settings for formatted text. Click the File menu and select Options. At the Word Options window, select the entry for Advanced and moved to the Cut, Copy, and Paste section. The settings for Pasting within the same document and Pasting between documents offer three options: Keep Source Formatting, Merge Formatting, or Keep Text Only. Select the option that works best for you. For example, you may want to keep source formatting when pasting within the same document but merge formatting when pasting between documents (Figure D).

Figure D

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The setting for Pasting Between Documents When Style Definitions Conflict adds a fourth option to Use Destination Styles, which is the default and typically the best choice. And the setting for Pasting From Other Programs offers the same three options to Keep Source Formatting, Merge Formatting, or Keep Text Only. You can always try one option to see how it works in the real world and then change it if necessary.

If you chose Keep Text Only for any setting, check the box for Keep Bullets And Numbers When Pasting Text With Keep Text Only Option. Also, if you want to control the formatting of text after it's pasted, make sure the box is checked for Show Paste Options Button When Content Is Pasted. Finally, click the Settings button to use smart cut and paste. Here, you can control settings to determine whether spaces are added or removed when text is pasted and how content is formatted from Excel and PowerPoint (Figure E).

Figure E

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Also see