Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Cut and Paste Formatting.

Cut and Paste Formatting

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated August 5, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021

If you are copying a paragraph from one document to another, you may have noticed some strange font changes that occur in your pasted information. This is due to the way in which Word treats styles and their relation to formatting. Understanding how this relationship works can help you understand what will happen to your pasted information.

When you copy a paragraph from one document into another and it takes on a different appearance, the primary reason is because the paragraph being formatted is using a style name already defined in the new document, and that style uses different character formatting. You are using styles whether you want to or not, because Word relies on the Normal style (which is predefined) as the default paragraph style. So if the Normal style uses an Arial font in your source document and the Normal style uses a Courier font in your target document, when you paste a paragraph from the source to the target, it takes on the appearance of Courier font. If you have simply selected all the text in your target document and changed it from Courier to Arial at some time in the past, you still have not redefined the Normal style, and new text will still be affected by it.

Now that you understand how Word treats text being pasted into a document, you can make it behave differently by simply changing the way the Normal style is formatted. How you do this depends on the version of Word you are using. Follow these steps:

  1. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Styles group. Word displays the Styles pane.
  3. In the list of available styles, hover the mouse pointer over the Normal style. You should see a drop-down arrow appear at the right side of the style name.
  4. Click the down arrow and choose Modify. Word displays the Modify Style dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Modify Style dialog box.

  6. Click on the Format button, then choose the Font option. Word displays the Font dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  7. Figure 2. The Font dialog box.

  8. Change the font settings to what you want and click OK. The Modify Style dialog box again appears.
  9. Make sure the Add to Template check box is selected or the New Documents Based on this Template radio button (depending on which version of Word you're using).
  10. Click OK to close the Modify Style dialog box
  11. Close the Styles pane.

The only exception to this style-conflict problem is if you have explicitly applied formatting to the source text. (For instance, you used the tools on the ribbon to format the text instead of relying on styles.) In this case, the formatting of your target will copy to the destination, but not always with the results you expect. For instance, if the source is formatted as bold Arial (and Arial is the default font for the source paragraph), and you copy it to the target where Courier is the default font, then you end up with bold Courier. Why? Because your explicit formatting (bold) was copied—nothing else. If, however, your target used Arial as a default font, but you had explicitly changed it to italics Palatino, then both the font (Palatino) and the attribute (italics) are copied to the target.

If you don't want to copy explicit formatting to your target document, the best way is to not use the regular Paste function (or Ctrl+V). Instead, use Paste Special and then specify that your selection be pasted as Unformatted Text.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8722) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Cut and Paste Formatting.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Counting a Particular Word

Need to know how many times a particular word appears in a document? Here's a handy trick that will tell you the count, ...

Discover More

AutoFilling from a Custom List

AutoFill can be a real timesaver if you often work with set lists of data. You can define your own custom lists and then ...

Discover More

Protecting Parts of a Document

Word doesn't require you to protect entire documents. Instead, you can protect different sections within a document, as ...

Discover More

Learning Made Easy! Quickly teach yourself how to format, publish, and share your content using Word 2013. With Step by Step, you set the pace, building and practicing the skills you need, just when you need them! Check out Microsoft Word 2013 Step by Step today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Processing Information Pasted from a PDF File

When pasting information copied from a PDF file, you can end up with a paragraph for each line of the original document. ...

Discover More

Pasted Text Looks Like Hollow Squares

When you paste something into your document, you expect it to at least be readable. If, instead of letters, you see small ...

Discover More

Selecting a Line of Text

Many word processing programs include commands that allow you to select a line of text. Word doesn't, but you can use the ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is seven more than 4?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.


FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.