Best Practices for Transferring a Document from Microsoft Word

Pasting from Microsoft Word into a Web-based content management system (CMS) is a problem that has plagued writers and editors for years.  The first thing that you should do is simply let go of the notion that you can create a document with complex formatting in Microsoft Word and then seamlessly paste the content into a Web-based CMS and hope to have the content render flawlessly across multiple browsers and e-mail clients.

When you copy and paste from Microsoft Word into a CMS, Word will attempt to transfer its internal formatting code to the new CMS as part of the paste.  Unfortunately, the only systems that fluently speak this language happens to be Microsoft Word.  More unfortunately, this additional code muck tends to introduce unpredictability into the rendering of your document in various browsers and e-mail clients.

Take for example the following 36-word excerpt, which I’ve created in Microsoft Word:

Pretty innocent, right?

Well, when I copy this and paste it into a CMS that doesn’t filter the tags, I end up with the following code:

In case you’re confused, this is 1,470 words of code, courtesy of Microsoft Word that your poor CMS will have to understand and communicate to countless browsers and e-mail clients.

For this reason, most content management systems (including the version of WordPress I’m currently using to draft this article) pretty much wipe out all but the bare essentials when a paste is performed from Microsoft Word and compel the user to create the document anew from within the content management system.

If you have created a document in Microsoft Word and want to duplicate it within a CMS, I would recommend following these guidelines:

  1. First, accept the fact that the document you have created in Microsoft Word that contains a variety of font colors, faces, tables, etc. is not going to translate seamlessly into a CMS.
  2. Question whether you want to even be sending an e-mail or posting a Web page that contains a variety of font colors, faces, tables, etc. in the first place.
  3. Just paste the bare essentials (normally just the text) from the Microsoft Word document by using a “Paste from Word” function or pasting into notepad before copying and pasting into your CMS (this will also clean out the extraneous word formatting).
  4. Add the formatting extras into your document, feeling happy that you haven’t just pasted a Dostoevsky novel of irrelevant code into your CMS.

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