Twisty Question #1: Why is my document a mess when I paste content from another place?

We've all heard tell of doctors going to dinner parties and being bombarded about the various afflictions of assembled guests, but spare a thought for the humble technical writer. 

Typically, most "And what do you do? " conversations at any sort of gathering begin with varying degrees of blankness when I say I'm a technical writer, closely followed by a spark of recognition and then, often:

"Oh! So you're good with Microsoft Word!"

Generally, I nod and try to steer the conversation towards more pressing issues of the day (What about those buns in Great British Bake Off this week? or Have you noticed how the price of tinned tomatoes has crept up?) but very often the person thinks for a few seconds and then hits me with a twisty Microsoft Word question. 

So, based on these moments, I've put together a series of short guides which are based on some of the most common questions that I've been asked.

This first guide deals with the thorny issue of pasting text into a document, where the text that you need to paste might be in another document, elsewhere in your current document, or perhaps from another source altogether (for example, a web page). In theory, there's nothing simpler - everyone knows you just select the portion of text, press CTRL+C to copy it and then use Word's Paste option. Easy!

Yes, it is. But many of us will have had to deal with cases where the pasted text looks completely different to the existing content and suddenly you're faced with a re-styling task - it's annoying at the best of times, but it's infuriating when you're in a hurry. Understanding how Word's Paste options work can save a lot of time, and a lot of stress - take a few seconds to think about the type of content that you need to paste and choose the most appropriate option for the situation:

Pasting text without trauma

This article was updated on September 4, 2021

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