Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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: Maintaining Formatting when Inserting Documents.

Maintaining Formatting when Inserting Documents

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated January 31, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016


Randall wants to insert a two-page document into the middle of a longer document and keep the same formatting so that when inserted, the two pages look the same as they do normally.

It is really hard to do this with consistent results in Word. Why? Because of the way that Word handles formatting. Consider, for a moment, the simple issue of page margins. When you insert one document into another, Word assumes that you want to use the same page margins as those in the receiving document, even if those are different than the margins in the original document. If the margins in both documents are not the same, then the inserted document will be reformatted within the new margins and you end up with something that looks different than the original.

One way to help mitigate this problem is to insert section breaks before and after where the two-page document will be inserted. This won't cause the receiving document to automatically have the same margins on the inserted document, but you will be able to manually set the margins between the section breaks so that they match what is in the two-page document. This could stop some of the reformatting headaches.

Notice I said "some." The reason is because most of the formatting headaches will be centered around the actual formatting of inserted text. When you insert one document into another, Word transfers all the formatting—both styles and explicit formatting—from the original document and adds it to the receiving document. If the receiving document has a style of the same name as is used by the document being inserted, then the style attributes in the receiving document are used in preference to those in the document being inserted. In such an instance, the likelihood of the inserted text looking different from the original is very high.

For instance, every document has a paragraph style named "Normal." If the receiving document has the Normal style defined to display text as 12-pt Ariel and the document being inserted has the Normal style defined to display text as 10-pt Times New Roman, then any paragraphs in the original document formatted with the Normal style will adopt the 12-pt Ariel formatting when inserted in the receiving document.

The only way around this problem is to make sure that the document being inserted never uses the same styles as the receiving document. This, obviously, is a lot of work. For this reason, many people avoid inserting documents all together. Instead, they insert a "picture" of the document by using these general steps:

  1. Select all the text in the document to be inserted.
  2. Press Ctrl+C to copy the text to the Clipboard.
  3. In the receiving document, position the insertion point where you want the insertion to occur.
  4. Display the Paste Special dialog box.
  5. Click the Picture (Enhanced Metafile) option.
  6. Click on OK.

What happens is that the text in the Clipboard (the document to be inserted) is inserted in the receiving document, but it is inserted as a picture, and is closer to the original appearance. You'll want to play with this method of insertion; it isn't appropriate for longer documents or documents with lots of complexity.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11922) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Maintaining Formatting when Inserting Documents.

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. ...


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What is four more than 4?

2022-01-31 07:45:25

Stephen Moore

This is all very well, but I have a problem even when working with only one document. Specifically, I use headings as Heading1 (red, outline, tnr 16). When I run a macro that replaces words in the Normal-styled text (TNR, 12, black), nothing I can do seems to stop that modifying the heading so that it has to be re-formatted. Even requiring 'text only' in the f/r function doesn't seem to work - the font size still ends up as 12, not 16. Also, I don't want tyo get to the stage where I am putting text images in headings, as you seem to suggest above.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, as are all your efforts.

Steve Moore

2017-08-04 15:10:40


We do this too, and have these issues. Here are two methods we use to avoid them:
-Everyone on the staff copies the styles from our standard document templates into the normal template. But, as you say, that alleviates only 'some' of the issues.
-We often PDF the doc to be inserted, create blank pages in our receiving doc so that pagination remains correct, and at the end, when the receiving document is completed and QA'd, we PDF it and insert the smaller doc. We always mention that it is included in its 'native format and pagination.' And we typically do this for an appendix, which helps because it often falls at the end of the receiving document.

2017-07-24 09:07:05

Steve Dunham

Since I see this problem all the time at work, I have a template with a bunch of basic styles I created (body copy, head1, head2, bullets, etc.) based on "no style" as part of the style definition. Here's how it can work:

1. Create a template with the styles you need. This takes a while, but it is worth it. My template has lasted me for at least 15 years.
2. Copy the styles into the document that will be inserted into another. You can copy the styles using the Import/Export menu (under Manage Styles, in the Styles menu on the Home tab) or just copy the contents of the template into the document; this will carry all the styles along, and even when you delete the template text from the document, the styles will remain.
3. In the document that will be inserted into another, click in a paragraph with the formatting you want, then on the style menu, right-click on the user-defined style you're going to use instead. For example, click in a paragraph that has Heading 1 style applied. In the style menu, right-click on the user-defined style you're going to use instead, such as head1, and choose "Update head1 to match the selection." Now head1 will be defined to look like your Heading 1. Then find and replace Heading 1 with head1 throughout the document. Repeat this step for all styles in use, updating a user-defined style to match the formatting, changing, for example, Body Text to body copy.
4. When all the text in your document has user-defined styles applied that are based on "no style," you can safely insert one document into the other without losing the formatting. Usually. Remember, this is Microsoft Word.

2017-07-22 16:34:57

Stephen Mann

If there is little or no formatting in the source document, I just paste it into Notepad, CTRL-A then paste it into the destination document. The pasted content then takes in all of the destination formatting.

This only works if my cut text contains no graphics or tables.

I never thought of using section breaks- thanks for the tip.

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