Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Maintaining Formatting when Inserting Documents.

Maintaining Formatting when Inserting Documents

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 4, 2021)

Randall wonders how he can insert a document into the middle of a larger document and keep the same look and formatting. He wants to insert a two-page document into the middle of a longer document and keep the same formatting so that when inserted the two pages look the same as they do normally.

It is really hard to do this, with consistent results, in Word. Why? Because of the way that Word handles formatting. Consider, for a moment, the simple issue of page margins. When you insert one document into another, Word assumes that you want to use the same page margins as those in the receiving document, even if those are different than the margins in the original document. If the margins in both documents are not the same, then the inserted document will be reformatted within the new margins and you end up with something that looks different than the original.

One way to help mitigate this problem is to insert section breaks before and after where the two-page document will be inserted. This won't cause the receiving document to automatically have the same margins on the inserted document, but you will be able to manually set the margins between the section breaks so that they match what is in the two-page document. This could stop some of the reformatting headaches.

Notice I said "some." The reason is because most of the formatting headaches will be centered around the actual formatting of inserted text. When you insert one document into another, Word transfers all the formatting—both styles and explicit formatting—from the original document and adds it to the receiving document. If the receiving document has a style of the same name as is used by the document being inserted, then the style attributes in the receiving document are used in preference to those in the document being inserted. In such an instance, the likelihood of the inserted text looking different from the original is very high.

For instance, every document has a paragraph style named "Normal." If the receiving document has the Normal style defined to display text as 12-pt Ariel and the document being inserted has the Normal style defined to display text as 10-pt Times New Roman, then any paragraphs in the original document formatted with the Normal style will adopt the 12-pt Ariel formatting when inserted in the receiving document.

The only way around this problem is to make sure that the document being inserted never uses the same styles as the receiving document. This, obviously, is a lot of work. For this reason, many people avoid inserting documents all together. Instead, they insert a "picture" of the document by using these general steps:

  1. Select all the text in the document to be inserted.
  2. Press Ctrl+C to copy the text to the Clipboard.
  3. In the receiving document, position the insertion point where you want the insertion to occur.
  4. Display the Paste Special dialog box.
  5. Click the Picture (Enhanced Metafile) option.
  6. Click on OK.

What happens is that the text in the Clipboard (the document to be inserted) is inserted in the receiving document, but it is inserted as a picture, and is therefore closer to the original appearance. You'll want to play with this method of insertion; it isn't appropriate for longer documents or documents with lots of complexity.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (3453) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Maintaining Formatting when Inserting Documents.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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