Paste Options in Word

Applies to:  Word 2016, Word 2013, Word 2010, Word 2007, Word 2003

Cut and pasteEveryone knows about “cut and paste” but most people only use it as a very basic tool.  They are unaware of the huge power of Paste Options in Word.  I am going to delve into this amazing Microsoft Word tool and give you some fascinating insights in how to speed up your daily work and produce documents that have a consistent look and feel.


First let’s examine how you are using Cut and Paste (or Copy and Paste) in Word.  When you have selected your text do you use the ribbon/toolbar picture buttons for Cut and Copy?

Cut copy and paste options on ribbonOr do you right click with the mouse and choose Cut or Copy ? Perhaps you use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-X and Ctrl-C? Any of these is fine.  They all do the job.  It is what you do next that is important – how are you pasting the text into the new location in your document or another document?  This is where your Paste Options in Word come in.

Note: I shall from now on in this article mostly refer to Copy and Paste because that’s probably what you do most often, leaving the original text where it is.  However, the Paste Options in Word that we are examining apply equally to Cut and Paste, where you are moving the text from one place to another and in effect deleting the original text.

How to find and apply Paste Options in Word

So you have copied your text and now you want to paste it in a different location.  Place your cursor where you want to paste the text.

  • Right click with the mouse (right click is always my preferred option – much quicker I find)


  • Click the arrow underneath the Paste button on the ribbon/toolbar, (Home tab on the ribbon)

Paste Options button

You now are faced with a potentially bewildering set of options!

  • Keep Source Formatting
  • Merge Formatting
  • Picture
  • Keep Text Only

I shall explain:

Keep Source Formatting

Text that you have copied from another location will bring all its formatting with it – styles, fonts, attributes and more.

In other words, the copied text will look almost exactly as it did in the original location, and may not match the surrounding text.

Attention!Not to be recommended unless you absolutely know what you are doing and are copying from the same document or another of your own documents or a set of professionally designed documents customised for your company.  This is the default normally when you don’t choose options – however, you can change the default and I will deal with this in later articles.

Merge Formatting

Text that you have copied from another location will try to match the formatting of the surrounding text.

The result of this sometimes looks like the “Text Only” option but the difference is that it will still bring in paragraph formatting such as automatic numbering and bullets.  This could be useful if you are copying and pasting lists

Keep Text Only

Text that you have copied from another location will remove all the original formatting from the text.

This is probably the safest option for you to use, but if you are copying and pasting large chunks of text that has a lot of formatting you will need to reapply the formatting.

Attention!If you are copying automatically numbered and bulleted lists this will be very annoying because it will show the numbers and bullets as characters but will not retain the automatic feature

Which of the Paste Options in Word should I choose?

With all this somewhat confusing information, what is the best way to choose your Paste Option?  Well, Microsoft helps you by showing you what each option would look like when you hover over the option with the mouse Mouse.  If in doubt, choose the “Keep Text Only” option and be prepared to reformat your text a little to tidy up.

An easy way to remember Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V?

Have you ever forgotten which is which and wondered why it is Ctrl-V for paste and not Ctrl-P?  Well, these keyboard shortcuts go back a long way to  before a mouse even existed (in the computing sense, that is!).  In those days we had to use the keyboard for all commands, and they were part of a whole family.  Usually the letter used with the Control key is the first letter of the command, but in this case Ctrl-P was already being used for the Print command.  So why V?  Maybe the originators of these commands had more than one reason for choosing V?

For those of you who (like myself) have a deeper interest in these things there is a fascinating forum thread here

However, I like to think of it like this:

The three keys X,C and V are right next to each other on the QWERTY keyboard and very close to the Ctrl-key on the left [keyboard image].


  • Ctrl-X for Cut (looks like a pair of skissors) and deletes the original text
  • Ctrl-C for Copy (C for copy)
  • Ctrl-V for Paste (you are moVing) text here and V is right next to C on the keyboard

How to work faster using quick keys for Cut/Copy and Paste

If you are having to do a large volume of copying and pasting,  once you have decided on your preferred method of pasting for a particular piece of work you can do the following:

  • Make sure that you have set your default paste options
  • Arrange the two documents side by side
  • Click with the mouse to select the text from the document you are copying from
  • Use Ctrl-C to copy the text
  • Use Ctrl-V to paste the text

Job done!   Satsified smiley face