Word 2004: Non-contiguous selection and paragraph styles

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
June 15th, 2005 • 5:06 am

Take a Word document whose text is formatted using a paragraph style called “Body.” In that document, create a non-contiguous selection by selecting a word in location A and then holding the command key down and selecting another word in location B in the document. Make sure not to select paragraph marks — only isolated words or phrases within paragraphs. The two non-contiguous items can be in the same paragraph or in two different paragraphs. It doesn’t matter.

Now press command-C to copy the selection. Go somewhere else in the document and do command-V to paste what you’ve just copied.

What does Word do? It pastes something that consists of two paragraphs, the first paragraph with the first part of the non-contiguous selection and the second paragraph with the second part of the non-contiguous selection.

But get this: both paragraphs are formatted using… the “Normal” paragraph style! Never mind that you’ve been using a style called “Body” for the body text in your document. Never mind the fact that you haven’t used a style called “Normal” anywhere in your document. That’s the style that Word uses, and there’s nothing you can do about it!

(You can paste the contents of the clipboard as unformatted text instead of using the default command-VPaste” command, but this will strip any other formatting, as well as some special characters such as the non-breaking space.)

There is a reason why I don’t use Word’s default “Normal” style as the body text style in my documents. It’s because it’s one of these “built-in” styles that have some proprietary and unpredictable behaviours in Word that pure user-created styles do not have.

Once again, Word punishes me for even daring not to use it the way someone in Redmond intended it to be used. Never mind that what I am doing (using my own styles) is perfectly legitimate and supported by Word’s feature set. As soon as you try to “customize” Word in any way, you are bound to encounter situations where Word forces you to fall back on its default feature set and use additional steps if you want to do things your way.

Of course, since my non-contiguous selection consists of bits of text without paragraph marks (which would carry their own style formatting information), Word has to use some style when pasting the text. But why on earth doesn’t it use the underlying paragraph style of the location where the text is being pasted?

Because it’s Word. And because it’s Microsoft.

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