Ending Copy / Paste Headaches

Acme Glue on hardward store shelves

It can be hard on occasion to remember that we live in a time when everything is amazing. Computers are, of course, one of the most amazing inventions of the last one hundred years, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t drive you crazy as well.

Perhaps one of the most amazing / crazy-inducing parts of using a computer is copy / paste: ”Wait, you mean I don’t have to retype this entire paragraph that I would like to cite in my article? I can just select some of the text and drop it in? OMG!!!” Copy and paste really does feel magical…until you see how that new piece of text will so often screw up the formatting of the document, email, or blog post you’ve been writing: “WAIT. No, why is the text formatted like that? Why is it in a different font and in bullets that don’t line up with mine! GAH!!! I’ll just retype the whole thing!”

Fortunately, there’s a simple and quick cure for this copy/paste headache. If you’re using Word 2010 on Windows, you can change the default paste options with a quick trip to File –> Options –> Advanced –> Cut, Copy, and Paste. Simply change the “Pasting between documents” setting from “Keep Source Formatting” to “Merge Formatting.”

Screenshot showing how to change options in Word 2010

This setting will largely match your formatting of what you’ve been typing, but preserve the bold, italics, and hyperlinks from your original selection.

But life is even easier if you’re a Mac user. Rather than being limited to ending copy/paste nightmares in Word, there is a global keyboard shortcut. “Paste and Match Style” works across almost all OS X applications that I’ve tried it in. Simply hit Command-Option-Shift-V and your text will now match what you’d previously been typing. If you find that an awkward keyboard shortcut (and it kind of is, four keys and all), remember that you can create or change any keyboard shortcut. So say goodbye to that Courier New getting jumbled up with your bulleted Helvetica!

I recently tweeted my love for this copy/paste shortcut, and reactions suggested that I had uncovered a minor miracle.

Tweet from @miriamkp

Are there other tricks that you use to lower your copy/paste headaches? Do you use a clipboard manager? Let us know in the comments!

EDITED to correct minor phrase error.

Lead photo: Acme Glue / Beau / CC BY 2.0

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