When you copy and paste text in macOS, by default you’re actually pasting two things: the text itself and its formatting. But while the formatting of text can sometimes be important, users are often far more interested in the words themselves rather than how they look.
The good news is that you can separate the text from its formatting — font, size, color, etc. — although how you do this varies slightly between most macOS applications and the still-ubiquitous Microsoft Word for Mac. Here’s how pasting without formatting works in macOS in general, and in Word for Mac in particular.
Paste and Match Style in macOS
First, let’s look at pasting without formatting in macOS in general, which includes Apple’s own apps as well as third party apps that stick to Apple’s user interface guidelines. The command you’re looking for is a cousin to the default Paste command called Paste and Match Style.
Usually found under the Edit menu, the Paste and Match Style command will strip whatever you copied of its formatting and paste the source text using the existing formatting of the document.
For example, let’s say you want to send someone information from a web page by copying the text from that page and pasting it into an email message. In the screenshot below, I copied the contents of an article I wrote and pasted it via the normal Paste command into an email:
As you can see above, the font sizes, links, colors, and so on from the original article are all preserved. This can be attractive, but in many cases it’s excessive and unnecessary. There are times when the original text formatting is useful, but in this and many other cases, I’m interested in the actual words rather than how they look.
However, if I instead used Edit > Paste and Match Style (default keyboard shortcut Shift-Command-V), I’d end up with only the text, formatted according to the current settings in my destination document or app. This gives a much cleaner look, although one drawback is that it does indeed remove all original formatting, including links.
Paste and Match Formatting in Microsoft Word
Unfortunately for the sake of consistency, Microsoft Word for Mac does things a tiny bit differently. The end result is basically the same, but the names and process differ.
In Microsoft’s case, the command we want is called Paste and Match Formatting and the keyboard shortcut is Option-Shift-Command-V.
You would use the command in the same way as Paste and Match Style in any other macOS app. Just copy your desired text, place your cursor into your destination Word document, and use the Paste and Match Formatting command or shortcut to paste the text only, matching the current formatting of the destination. The key difference, at least for those who prefer keyboard shortcuts, is to just remember that extra Option key in the command.
However, Word has an additional text formatting feature that can be quite handy. If you’ve already pasted text via the default Paste command, you can retroactively remove its formatting. To do so, simply highlight the formatted text in your Word document and use the keyboard shortcut Control-Spacebar.
This nifty keyboard shortcut has the same effect as clicking on the little clipboard that appears after you paste text into Word and then choosing Keep Text Only. For that matter, the clipboard icon has some other useful pasting options; Match Destination Formatting is the equivalent to doing the Paste and Match Formatting thing I mentioned above.
And finally, there’s one more thing to know about how Word handles pasting. There are a lot of options you can change within Word > Preferences > Edit, including turning off the clipboard completely (described here on Microsoft’s support pages). If you get familiar with the keyboard shortcuts we discussed, then you can disable that clipboard if you don’t want to see its annoying icon ever again!
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