Unscrambling Word Formatting When Copying Text

Q. If there’s one thing about Word I hate, it’s the perverse way it “copies” text from one document to another. For example, if the text in the original document is formatted in 12 point Times New Roman and I copy it into another document that’s formatted differently, I’m never really sure how the copied text will look. How can I get it to copy the text the way I want it?

A. I’m happy to report the solution to your problem is not so difficult that you’ll want to give up Word. The trick—and it’s such a strange solution that it does appear to be a trick—is to understand that in Word, text formatting is tied to the paragraph symbol (). In other words, Word will automatically pick up the formatting.… Ah, I can almost hear you saying to yourself, “The paragraph symbol! What paragraph symbol?”

Okay, let’s back up and I’ll explain. Check your toolbar and see if the paragraph symbol ( ) is there. If it’s not, add it. Here’s how: Go to Tools, Customize and click on the Commands tab and highlight View . You’ll see Show all . Using your mouse, drag the symbol into your toolbar. Now, if you click on it, icons will appear everywhere there’s a paragraph break (in addition, little dots, representing spaces, will appear between words).

Here are the rules for copying formatting:

If the selection you highlight for copying doesn’t include a icon, then Word copies only the character style and any additional formats applied to the highlighted section.

If you copy only a single icon, then Word copies only the paragraph style stored in the icon.

If the selection you highlight for copying includes a icon, then Word copies the paragraph style and any additional paragraph formats applied to the paragraph, plus the character style and any additional character formats applied to the selection.

To get rid of those annoying when you’re finished copying, just click again on the icon in the toolbar.

Sometimes, however, a document has such complex formatting, it’s easier to eliminate the formatting entirely when you copy it. Here’s how to do that: Highlight the text you want to copy and right-click and click on Copy . Then, go to where you want to paste the text and instead of right-clicking again and clicking on Paste , go to the toolbar and click on Edit, Paste Special and highlight Unformatted Text and click OK .

The copied text will lose all the former formatting and it will appear only with your computer’s single default format.


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