Too Many Edits Prevent Pasting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 11, 2020)


When trying to copy and paste in a Word document Stanley gets the message: "There are too many edits in the document. This operation will by incomplete. Save your work." He is trying to understand what causes this error and how he can avoid it.

Unfortunately, this particular error message is rather vague on the part of Microsoft. It could just as easily have been phrased "something is going wrong with this document, but we're not quite sure what it is." Let's take a look at possible ways to deal with the error to see if it can be fixed.

First, it could be that you are running low on disk space on wherever this particular document is stored. Word, particularly when working with large documents, stores quite a bit of information to disk in temporary files. If there isn't enough space on the disk to create temporary files that are needed by the program, then you could see this error. This cause may crop up, for instance, if the document is stored on a flash drive and that flash drive has limited space on it. (The temporary files used by Word are often stored in the same directory as the original document.)

To see if that is the case, get out of Word completely and examine the drive where the document is located. In Windows check to see how much free space is on the drive. If there is very little, delete any unneeded files. Look for files ending with the TMP filename extension anywhere on the drive; these can be deleted right away.

If this doesn't fix the problem, then it is possible that your document is mildly corrupted. (If it was anything more than mildly corrupted, you probably wouldn't be able to open it at all.) Follow these steps:

  1. Start Word. You should only have the default, blank document open that appears when you first start the program.
  2. Display the Open dialog box.
  3. Locate and select the problem document.
  4. Click the down-arrow next to the Open button. Word lists several ways you can open the document.
  5. Choose Open and Repair.

Using the Open and Repair option causes Word to go through and try to fix some things that may be wrong with the document. You would think that the program would have tried the repairs automatically if it detected something was wrong with the document enough that it gave the vague error message, but that apparently isn't the case. You need to specifically tell the program to initiate the repairs in this manner.

If this doesn't fix the issues with the document, then you should fall back to more traditional methods of dealing with corrupted documents. These suggestions stem from the general wisdom that it is large, complex documents that generally exhibit corruption issues. Make a copy of your document and then follow these general steps on the copy, saving and checking the document between each step:

  1. Remove any editing restrictions and protection from the document.
  2. Turn off Track Changes (if it is on) and resolve any changes you previously tracked. This may be as simple as accepting all changes or going through them, one at a time, and accepting or rejecting them, as appropriate. The goal is to get rid of any tracked changes entirely.
  3. Delete any comments in the document.
  4. Get rid of any special tables (such as a table of contents or table of authorities) and indexes in the document. You can always add these back later.
  5. Simplify any tables in your document. This means getting rid of any nested tables (tables inside of tables), any table cells containing large amounts of text, and any merged cells.
  6. Simplify or remove any complex drawings that may exist in the document. For instance, look for drawings consisting of many shapes grouped together.
  7. Press Ctrl+A to select the entire document, then press Ctrl+Q and Ctrl+Space Bar. This gets rid of any explicit formatting (both character and paragraph) within the document.
  8. In addition to opening the problem document, create a new, blank document. In the problem document, press Ctrl+Home (to move to the beginning of the document), press Shift+Ctrl+End (to select everything to the end of the document), press Shift+Left Arrow (to de-select the final paragraph mark in the document), and press Ctrl+C (to copy everything to the Clipboard). Switch to the new, blank document and press Ctrl+V to paste everything there. Save the new document and check to see if it exhibits the same problems as the original.

The reason for these steps (and checking the document between each step) is that large documents, over time, can become very, very complex internally. This can cause Word to get confused about how the document should be assembled. The purpose of each step is to reduce complexity in the problem document and retain as much of the original text and, optionally, formatting as possible.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13229) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365.

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 1 + 3?

2020-07-11 18:56:10


For the step that says "Display the open dialog box", I had to click Open and then Browse in order to display the open dialog box in my version of Word.

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