Reusing Online Content In Your Microsoft Word Documents

This tip will save you time and unnecessary heartache.

Here’s the scenario: You find some content during your web travels that is exactly what you’re looking for. You decide you need to include it in one of your Word documents. After pasting in the content, everything in your Word document looks screwy! What happened?!

Content on the Internet is formatted using Hypertext Markup Language or HTML. HTML formatting is not aligned to match the formatting codes in your Word document. That’s why formatting glitches occur if you simply paste in the online content.

So when you find something online that you want to reuse (see important note below), copy the online content and use the Paste Special command in Word. For the purpose of this quick tip, when I say content, I mean you are copying and pasting text and not pictures.

Here are two ways to use Paste Special in Word:

1)   In older versions of Word, click on the Edit Menu, then select Paste Special, and choose the option called “Unformatted Text”.

2)   In newer versions of Word, like Word 2007 and Word 2010, paste the online content. Look for the little yellow box that appears at the end of your pasted content and click on the box. Select Text Only.  (Word 2010 also allows you to preview your paste.  Here’s an excellent article and video about Paste Preview in Word 2010 ).

Using Paste Special will strip the HTML formatting from the pasted content and the content will align with the formatting codes in your current document. The result may not be exactly the look you were hoping for but now you are all set to take advantage of Microsoft Word’s powerful styles functionality. Stay tuned for information about Using Styles in Word in the next article.

***** IMPORTANT NOTE *****

If you do start reusing content from online places, please reference the original source for that information. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to make that information available or there may be copyright issues in place.

When I’ve come across useful information in the past and I knew I was going to use it elsewhere, I would include the web address in my reference, whether I added in the reference as a footnote, in a comment box, or in the body of the text using parentheses. If there are copyright issues in place, contact the original author to ask permission to use his or her information before going ahead. You’ll be glad you did.