Word 2004: Copied text includes paragraph formatting even when paragraph mark is not selected

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
September 4th, 2005 • 3:01 pm

Reasonably experienced Word users know that paragraph formatting information is stored in the (invisible) paragraph mark that appears at the end of each paragraph (when you make invisible characters visible).

They also know that, in order to copy the paragraph formatting of a paragraph along with the text of the paragraph, they need to make sure that their selection includes the invisible paragraph mark before copying the text.

For example, if you have a paragraph in a Word document that is centered on the page, and if you select all the text in the paragraph, but not the final paragraph mark, when you copy that text and paste it elsewhere, the pasted text will not be centered. It will take on the existing paragraph formatting of the location where it is pasted.

This is normal.

But then, how do you explain the following:

  1. Open a Word document that contains automatically numbered lists, i.e. paragraphs with automatic numbering.
  2. Take one of the paragraphs with an automatic number, and select the entire text of the paragraph without the final paragraph mark.
  3. Copy the text to the Clipboard with command-C.
  4. Open a new blank document in TextEdit.
  5. Switch that blank dcument to plain text with command-shift-T (or “Make Plain Text” command in “Format” menu).
  6. Paste the contents of the Clipboard with command-V.

Guess what? The text you’ve just pasted includes the automatic number from the automatic numbering in the Word document!

You never selected the actual automatic number itself (it’s impossible to select it), and you definitely did not select the paragraph mark, which is supposed to contain the paragraph formatting (including the automatic numbering, with is a paragraph-level option). Yet Word still managed to include the automatic number in the Clipboard.

Interestingly, this only happens if you paste the contents of the Clipboard into a plain text document or text field. If you paste into a rich text document or text field, Word will paste the text without the number.

How much sense does this make?

Out of curiosity, I tried the exact same thing with an automatically numbered list in a Pages document, and of course the Clipboard does not include the number.

Once again, Microsoft decided to do things their own way, and to break the logic of their own software design in the process. What else is new?

I frequently encounter this particular problem myself, because I often have Word documents with automatic numbered lists of items that I need to look up in an on-line database. So I select the text of one of the list items and switch to Safari and paste the text into the text field of my on-line terminology database. Since the text field in question is not very wide, I only see the end part of the text I have just pasted, which looks fine. I then press Return to submit the search request, and get 0 results with a list of close matches that starts with a number! Then I realize that Word actually included the list item’s number in the Clipboard and inserted it before the item’s text (along with the tab character between the number and the text, of course) in the on-line form’s text field, which is a plain-text field, of course.

And of course, there is no way to turn off this stupid behaviour. Grrr.

UPDATE: I should also note that this behaviour also affects the Paste Without Formatting command in Word itself, which of course makes it even more irritating.

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