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Pasting web page content into Word certainly isn't guaranteed to maintain the same formatting, but adding underlines to everything is probably a bug.

Quite often, I find a piece of information via a newsletter or on the Internet that I want to keep. My normal routine is to select the text/graphic that I want, press Control>C, open a new Document, and press Control>V. Depending on the source of the text/graphic, I will get exactly what I want -- a nice clean paste of ONLY text and/or graphic. However, when copying and pasting from some websites and/or newsletters (yours included), I get the text and graphics, but all of the text is 'underscored' and I can't get rid of the underscores. If I select 'Paste Special' and save as .rtf, I will get text without underscore but no graphic. What's with this and how can I avoid the underscores?

I was able to reproduce something that sounds like what you're seeing. I'm not sure that it's exactly the same, but I'll describe what I think is happening (hint #1: it shouldn't) and what you can do.

And Hint #2? They might look like underlines, but they're not.

Copy

Let's start with an article on my web site and select a portion of it to copy:

Ask Leo! article with text selected.

Here, I've selected the summary line through the text at the bottom of this screen capture.

Ctrl+C copies that to the clipboard.

Paste

In Microsoft Word, I type Ctrl+V to paste what I just copied into a new empty document.

Text pasted into Word, showing underlining

And sure enough, some of the text appears underlined.

Except ... those aren't underlines.

Revision Marks

Those are revision marks.

The clue that makes me think that revision marks are the problem is that the underlining is continuous and there's a revision mark bar down the left-hand side.

Now, here's the problem that I see:

  • I didn't have revision marks enabled.

  • Even if I had, I'd expect that all of the text would be treated the same way.

Revision marks, when enabled, are intended to indicate what text has changed in an existing document. Changed words are typically colored differently and underlined and the revision mark bar is placed along the outer edge of the page at the position which the changes occurred.

As I said, when enabled - which they are not.

Revision marks begone!

The best way to remove revisions is to tell Word to "accept" all of the revisions.

Steps in Word to accept revisions

Click the Review tab in the Word ribbon, then click the Accept button, and finally choose Accept all Changes in Document.

Document with underlines gone

The unexpected underlining is gone.

Why?

To be honest, I believe that there's a bug in here somewhere.

One clue is exactly where the underlining started.

When I look at the page from which I originally copied the code, an advertisement sits in between the text that is not underlined and the text that follows, which is underlined. Even though it was not highlighted in the copy operation that I started with, it was included.

I believe something in the material copied erroneously caused Word to turn on revision marks when it was pasted in due to that advertisement, even though the revision mark indicator still showed that they were off.

Avoiding the problem

Even though accepting all changes is a pretty simple solution, my theory is that when you select part of a web page to be copied, avoid advertising blocks.

A couple of tests here seem to bear that theory out.

Article C4849 - June 17, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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14 Comments
R Menon
June 21, 2011 9:07 AM

Hi,
Why not just use 'paste special' command from the ribbon? Use paste special (which appears as a drop down menu item below paste button in word 2007 or under edit tab in 2003) and select paste as unformatted text or unformatted unicode text.
It will be pasted as plain text. Useful in many other contexts as well.

Pictures don't get pasted if you past unformatted. (I've had this question a couple of times, and pictures are often a specific reason for doing the way it's being done.)
Leo
21-Jun-2011

Phillip
June 21, 2011 10:01 AM

I often copy from web sites (most often my email) to a document, and although I've not had this problem, I find my style sheets get cluttered up with whatever was used for the website. Messy and undesirable.

I paste into notepad (which reduces the formatted text to pure text) and then copy and paste into my document. This might also help avoid the underlining.

Mikey
June 21, 2011 10:52 AM

This may be irrelevant, but I find that if I select the stuff to be copied from the bottom up, rather than from the top down, the result in the Word document is often less cluttered and generally screwed up. I do a lot of this sort of copying, and don't ever remember seeing the revision marks show up. (Using Firefox and Word 2010.)

Catherine Harper
June 21, 2011 12:10 PM

I did a bit of testing after reading your article, and found that the problem does not exist when using Oracle's Open Office, a suite I greatly prefer over Microsoft Office.

Schnazola
June 21, 2011 12:17 PM

The revision marks don't show up in a Word doc on my system when I do what Leo did, but I'm running Word 2007 under Windows XP Professional, version 5.1 (with SP3).

I always use Paste Special, Unformatted Text when pasting from a web page into Word. In fact, I have placed the Past Special tool on the Quick Access Tool Bar.

Roger R
June 21, 2011 1:04 PM

Great article.

Much of what I copy are tutorials that are included in newsletters such as yours and this issue has plagued me on/off for several years. While pasting text into notepad (I prefer EditPad - much nicer) will clean the txt, it loses the pictures, requiring a complete, loborious, reconstruction of the article. Now, if only the newsletters would put a link to download the tutorial....(hint,hint)

Bonita
June 21, 2011 2:42 PM

I have had this same issue and am using Word 2002.

The underlining did not show up until the document was saved and opened in a browser window.

What was happening in my case, was that for some reason, Word had decided to make hyperlinks out of, sometimes, practically every other word on the page, that should not be there.

When the text was moused over, the pop-up appeared showing there were hyperlinks all through.

The only thing that worked was to right click each one and choose "remove hyperlink." Appears there is no way to select blocks of text and remove all at once.

You can copy the document into WordPad or Notepad but will lose all of your hyperlinks, and most other formatting.

As Leo says, avoid including advertising when you are copying from the webpage.

Also avoid copying any large splashy headers, tables, special formatting, images, etc., especially if they contain links, and most do. A lot of times, these can be copied and pasted, but perform this separately from working with the text for best results.

Bottom line, copy and paste part by part, and be careful with anything that isn't just plain text.

If there is a choice to "print page" use that option as it works much better in copying and pasting into Word.

Dan LaPlante
June 21, 2011 2:58 PM

I use Wordpad for this mainly because of it's limitations.

It all depends on how the web page was made. There could be protections to prevent "lazy" people from easily copying someone else's hard work. I am a programmer but not a web designer and barely understand the process.

In some cases, when pasted, the words have been single-line. It's a time "cost/benefit" issue. How much cleanup will I have to do.? Or when selecting print preview, the body of the page isn't even there. Are these difficulties designed in?

My girlfriend complains about the ads when opening some YouTube videos or slowdowns on skankbook applications.

I tell her "It's free!". -*

All the best
Dan

*doesn't shut her up, tho.

Bernard Winchester
June 21, 2011 3:57 PM

Paste special/unformatted is very useful, but sometimes too drastic. One of the types of formatting which I find bothersome is the way in which copied web-pages often show up as big tables in Word. I recently discovered that these can be easily be turned into text with the "Convert table to text" command, shown in the Table menu in Word 2003.

Will Thomas
June 22, 2011 8:15 AM

I use ClipMate from Thornsoft as my clipboard. It has a function that will strip out everything but text.

Bob Grot
June 23, 2011 12:20 PM

Thanks Leo. I had the same problem but wrongly assumed the underlines were the result of copyright protection.

Anwar Kabir
June 24, 2011 7:02 PM

Thanks Leo. I also experienced this but didn'nt have the foggiest notion of what was happening.

Geoff Walker
June 25, 2011 2:50 AM

One of the commenters mentioned that copying "bottoms up" works better -- I second that! For some unknown reason I almost always get cleaner results doing it bottoms up than top down.

GREG JACKSON
April 2, 2013 12:45 PM

Phillip's post of June 21, 2011 10:01 AM explains the simplest of simplicity. Simply simple. Many times I run across various issues which are easily resolved by pasting to the clipboard, then copy and replace. Quite simple, eh?

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