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September 02, 2010

Computer Editing Tip: Paste Special

Chelsea blog by Chelsea Lee

If you have ever cut and pasted information from a webpage into a word-processing document, you know what a mess you can get of font face, size, color, and spacing. It takes one click to paste and then five more steps to get the format to match your default settings—very aggravating. Paste Special is a feature of Microsoft Word (the program I use—please share solutions for other software in the comments) that can make your work easier and more accurate. It allows you to skip the format wrangling and to paste just the text you selected using the same settings as in your document.

What Paste Special Is Good For

Paste Special is helpful when you want to copy and paste from your Internet browser window or PDF into your Word document. You can use Paste Special to help construct your reference list, and in doing so you can reduce transcription errors and save time. For example, you can use it to copy and paste 

  • DOIs,
  • URLs, and
  • text from PDFs or any webpage.

How to Use Paste Special

To use Paste Special, first copy the text you want from your webpage. Second, put your cursor where you want to paste in your Word document. Then select Paste Special from the Edit menu (Word 2003) or from the Paste button on the Home Tab (Word 2007, 2010). A dialog box like the one below will pop up.


Select “Unformatted text” or “Unformatted Unicode Text” (the latter seems to work better when copying from a PDF), and click OK. Your copied text will paste in the same format as the text that surrounds it in your document.  


If you prefer to use keyboard shortcuts, the combination for Paste Special is either ALT+V (Word 2003) or CTRL+ALT+V (Word 2007, 2010). Finally, if you really know your way around the computer, this DIY lesson will show you how to make a one-key shortcut for Paste Special (it uses a Word macro to skip the dialog box and paste unformatted text directly).

Stay tuned for more editing tips! And please share your own tips in the comments.


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