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Reset or keep formatting when pasting to email

Whenever I copy something from another email or application such as an Internet page and paste that in my message, the formatting never really blends in with what I have already.

On the other hand, when I have some carefully formatted text from Word and paste that into a new message, a lot of formatting is lost or messed up.

How can I control the formatting of my pasted text?

Paste Options buttonThere are several paste options in Outlook, with different default settings, which can make the default behavior a bit unpredictable and still requires you to change the formatting afterwards. However, looking up and changing the default paste settings is quite easy.

Paste Options

A quick way to change the formatting of pasted text is to click on the paste icon that becomes available at the bottom of the pasted text directly after pasting.

Pasting Options icon in Outlook 2007.      Pasting Options icon in Outlook 2010.
Pasting options icon in Outlook 2007 (left) and Outlook 2010 (right).

You can now choose how Outlook should format your pasted text. In Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016, hovering over an option will automatically preview the formatting results.

To change the default, select the “Set Default Paste…” option or go to;

  • Outlook 2007
    Tools-> Options…-> tab Mail Format-> button: Editor Options…-> section Advanced-> option group: Cut, copy and paste
  • Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016
    File-> Options-> section: Mail-> button: Editor Options…-> section: Advanced-> option group: Cut, copy and paste

Setting default pasting behavior in Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010.
Setting all the pasting options to “Match Destination Formatting”, “Merge Formatting” or simply “Keep Text Only” will make sure that the pasted text blends in nicely with your current email.

Pasting Options in Outlook 2003

The paste options which exist in Outlook 2007 and later do not exist in Outlook 2003. However, there is a Paste Special command when you have Word set a your email editor to get a choice of how your copied text is being pasted.

To open Paste Special use Edit-> Paste Special… or use the keyboard sequence: ALT, E, S

Paste special dialog in Outlook 2003 with Word as the email editor.
Paste special dialog in Outlook 2003 with Word as the email editor.

Note: A keyboard sequence differs from a keyboard shortcut in that you have to press the keys after each other instead of at the same time. Sadly, the Paste Special keyboard shortcut CTRL+ALT+V which works in Outlook 2007/2010/2013/2016 does not work in Outlook/Office 2003 either.

Quickly clearing the formatting after pasting

Clear Formatting buttonIf you pasted the text and forgot to reset the formatting, there is another command which is quite effective; Clear Formatting.

To use this command, select the text for which you want to reset the formatting and press CTRL+SPACEBAR

An alternative way to execute this command;

  • Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016
    Press the Clear Formatting icon icon - Clear Formatting on the Message tab.
  • Outlook 2003 (with Word set as the email editor)
    Edit-> Clear-> Formats

Send Word document directly as an email body without copy/paste

If you carefully formatted a document in Word and want to send it as an email, don’t bother with copying and pasting the text in a new message in Outlook. You can directly send a Word document as an email body by using the “Send to Mail Recipient” command.

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