Clean up text with Paste and Match Style

Updated April 20th, 2020.

NOTE: the following is a Mac-only feature. The iPhone’s Copy and Paste works differently, so the problem that “Paste and Match Style” solves on a Mac isn’t a problem on the iPhone.

You’ve surely experienced the mess that happens when you paste text copied from a web page. In an email, it might look like this– the stuff you’ve typed is in the expected font and size, but the stuff you’ve pasted is different:

Pasting text from a web page into an email. Font is too big.
Pasting text from a web page into an email. Font is too big.

What happened here is the “copy” step copied not just the text, but the text’s formatting too. When we paste, the formatting of what we are pasting doesn’t match the rest of the email. Most of the time, we want it to match, and that leads to a lot of cleaning up. The better solution: instead of Edit/Paste, use Edit/Paste and Match Style, leading to a result like so:

After using "Paste and Match Style" instead of regular Paste
After using “Paste and Match Style” instead of regular Paste

That was easy.

Paste and Match Style is one of those things that sort of snuck up on me. I don’t know when it first showed up. But I can tell you that in macOS 10.14 (Mojave) it appears in the Edit menu of several programs, including:

  • Mail
  • Safari
  • Chrome
  • Messages
  • Pixelmator
  • Text Edit
  • Numbers (’09 and current version)
  • Pages (’09 and current version)
  • Keynote (’09 and current version)
  • Evernote

and many, many more. Even Microsoft Word can do it (although Microsoft– as usual– can’t quite follow the rules, so they call it “Paste and Match Formatting”).

Where else might this come in handy? When you want to clean up text coming from an email with a bunch of back and forth replies, like so:

Emails that go back and forth a few times get a messy bunch of bars at the left.
What a mess. Try cleaning this up by hand. No fun!

All you have to do is select the text, copy it, and then (in a new email) Paste and Match Style. It will look like this:

Cleaned up text, after "Paste and Match Style."
All cleaned up, after Paste and Match Style

Paste and Match Style has been around a long time but you might not have known about it. Now you do! Give Paste and Match Style a try and see how you like it. I’m betting you will use it all the time.

BONUS: the keyboard shortcut for Paste and Match Style is Command-Shift-Option-V (like Paste’s Command-V, with two more keys). Try it a few times and it will be second nature.

Copyright 2008-2023 Christian Boyce. All rights reserved.

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