by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 16, 2018)
Anthony wrote about a problem he was having when editing documents. He reported that he regularly has difficulty with odd fonts showing up while editing old documents that were originally created using a different template. Sometimes when deleting text or hard returns, the sentence he is working on changes to a different font, usually a Courier font or a smaller Times New Roman font.
There could be a number of causes for this type of problem, and you won't know which solution to use until you narrow down what the problem is. The most common problem is caused by a misunderstanding of the relationship between styles and explicit formatting.
Every paragraph in your document has a style assigned to it. This style defines the default characteristics of that paragraph, including the font that is used to display the characters in the paragraph. If you paste new text within the paragraph, it usually adopts the formatting of the underlying style. If you don't like that formatting, the solution is to change the font associated with the style.
To determine the font associated with the style of a particular paragraph, just select the paragraph and press Ctrl+Space Bar. This removes all the explicit formatting of characters within the paragraph, and returns them to their default, as defined by the underlying paragraph style. If you want the font to be different (and therefore have a minimum of problems when cutting and pasting text), then change the font used by the style, don't change the font explicitly by using tools or menus.
The problem of odd fonts also crops up if you copy text from one document to another. When you select entire paragraphs to copy, the styles assigned to those paragraphs are copied, as well. When you paste those paragraphs into the target document, if that document already has styles of the same name as the paragraphs you are copying, then the pasted text will not retain the formatting used in the old document. Instead, it will adopt the formatting assigned to the style within the target document, and this change can cause the pasted text to look different than it did in the original document. If, however, the target document does not have the same styles as those used in the paragraphs you are copying, then the styles are copied along with the paragraphs to the new document.
One way around this problem is to never do a straight paste into the new document. Instead, use Paste Special and choose to paste Unformatted Text. This causes Word to ignore the styles that were copied with the paragraphs from the original document and instead use the styles only in the target document.
Another thing to watch out for is font substitution. If the document you are editing was created on a different system, long ago, it is possible that the original system had fonts installed on it that you don't have on your system. If you open a document that uses fonts you don't have installed, Word substitutes an available font for the missing font. This can cause your text to appear funny and flow differently than you expect. The solution is to either install the missing font or to change the styles used in the document so they use fonts you do have installed.
Finally, one word of advice: If you do a lot of editing, configure Word so that it displays non-printing characters. Choose Tools | Options to display the Options dialog box, and make sure the View tab is selected. Note that there is a section on the dialog box called Non-Printing Characters or Formatting Marks, depending on your version of Word. This section has six different check boxes. You can select the All check box, if desired, but at a minimum you should select the Tab Characters, Spaces, Paragraph Marks, and Hidden Text check boxes.
When you click OK, you notice that your document looks strange—there are lots of marks on it that weren't there before. Once you overcome the initial disorientation of seeing these marks that are normally invisible, you will find them invaluable in both editing and formatting.
When editing, you become more precise in what you are copying and pasting, since you can now see exactly what characters are being included in your edit. You can also see where extra spaces and unwanted tab characters are located so that you can edit them out easily.
When formatting, you can make sure you select exactly the characters you want to format. This improves your accuracy and helps you to get exactly the look you want. In addition, you will be less likely to include or exclude the paragraph mark in your formatting. (Including or excluding the paragraph mark, as the case may be, has different effects on formatting, and editing, for that matter.)
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (3505) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.
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