Smart Pasting

July 9, 2018 by Laurie Danford

Has this ever happened to you?  You copy and paste content into your document. Word maintains the original formatting and you have to manually reformat it to match your document.

Solution: Use Paste Options to bring in just the content, and leave the formatting behind!

Here are four options for smarter pasting in Microsoft Word.

Smart Tags

Immediately after pasting, the smart copy icon appears in the lower right corner. Click on it, or press the CTRL key to open it.  The buttons inside can vary, but here are the most common ones.

The first, KEEP SOURCE FORMATTING, maintains all the font and paragraph formatting from the original you Word Smart Tag


The second, MERGE FORMATTING, keeps some of the paragraph formatting, but matches the font and size of the text around it. Merge Formatting option maintains the uniformity of formatting of the content. The pasted content will have same font style and font size which is present in the majority part of the text. Below image shows the pasted content which has now uniform font style and size.

The third button, KEEP TEXT ONLY, abandons all the original formatting and adopts the format of the destination text. This is the one to use most often to avoid introducing unwanted formatting into your document..

Sometimes, there’s a fourth button, USE DESTINATION STYLES. If you have styles defined in both documents, like Heading 1, but they’re defined differently, the pasted content takes on the style definition of the target document, but the rest of the original formatting is maintained.

Paste Button

The first button on the Home ribbon is Paste. It has two halves. The top half does a standard Paste, but the bottom half gives the same options as the Smart Tag!

Paste Formatting Only

Here’s a neat trick that allows you to duplicate just the formatting from the original source, without pasting the content.

  1. Put your cursor anywhere within a paragraph of text that has formatting you desire, press CTRL-SHIFT-C.
  2. Place your cursor anywhere in the target text, and press CTRL-SHIFT-V. This pastes the appearance / formatting, but not the text.

This is actually the keystroke version of Format Painter, which is found in the Clipboard group on the Home tab of the Word Ribbon.

Set Paste Default

When you’re doing a lot of copying and pasting between documents, you usually need one of these Paste Options exclusively. Instead of changing the setting every time you paste, set the default.

On either the Smart Tag or the Paste button drop-down, choose SET DEFAULT PASTE. This opens Word’s Advanced Optoins, in the CUT, COPY, PASTE section. Here you can define your default format for when you Paste or CTRL-V, and refine other behaviors.

You can even set different defaults for pasting within your document, between Word documents, or from other applications. There are additional options in this window to fine-tune the behaviors to your specific needs.

Word Options dialog

Laurie DanfordLaurie Danford
Director of Software Development, BEC Legal Systems

Published: July 9, 2018