Use Paste Special to Clean-Up Text

Moving text with the cut and paste commands, either from one application to another, or between documents within the same application, is one of the most powerful features of Windows. It can also be one of the most frustrating features, especially when the pasted text doesn’t appear as you had expected or wanted.

In many programs you can control how Windows pastes data with the Paste Special command. This tip reviews how this command works in Microsoft Word. The steps outlined for Word are identical for pasting text with Paste Special in many other Windows programs.

At one time or another, all Word users will have had problems pasting data. Many lawyers will have experienced this when moving text from WordPerfect to Word. Often the alignment and spacing of pasted text make it very difficult to read.

Here’s how you can use the Paste Special command to control the format of pasted text. First, highlight the text that you want to copy, click Edit, then Copy (or Ctrl+C if you prefer using this keyboard shortcut). This puts the highlighted data into the Clipboard. The Clipboard is just a temporary place for holding text that is being moved or copied from one location to another.

Next, click on the location you want to paste the text you are copying. Then, click on the Edit menu, and select Paste Special (not Paste, which would be your usual selection). This opens the Paste Special dialog box. It gives you several different options for the format of text you are pasting. The “Unformatted text” option is the one that will clean up your pasted text. Select it, and then click OK to paste the data.

The Unformatted text option will paste bare, unformatted text only. All other formatting information will be stripped out, including bold, underlining, italics, indents, bullets etc. If the text you are pasting had various fonts or complex formatting, you will have to manually change fonts and recreate all this formatting. Although doing this can be time-consuming, it will sometimes be easier than trying to fix a document that has problems due to formats that did not convert properly, in particular when moving text from WordPerfect to Word.

Many Windows programs have a Paste Special command, and some have other format options that will help you. Excel for example, has about a dozen different options for reformatting pasted text. Next time you need to clean up text, remember the Paste Special command.


  1. Good tip! The Paste Special commands often have multiple useful options, as you point out. When I want the “Unformatted text” option, I often find it faster to use PureText 2.0, a tiny free Windows utility that by default uses the hot key WINDOWS+V. I copy with CTRL+C (like usual) and paste quickly cleanly with WINDOWS+V. It is worth a look.

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