Day 7 – The joy of (plain) text: fixing funny formatting

Have you ever copy-and-pasted text from Word into a different piece of software, for example a Blackboard post, and found it looked… wrong? Maybe there were unnecessary spaces in words, unusual alignment, strange changes in text sizes? Chances are, if you’d gone into the source code, it may have looked something like this:

Incomprehensible mass of HTML source code

That’s a lot of code to generate a post that looks like this:

Simple Blackboard post with a title, date, quote, four bullet points and a weblink.

The problem is, copying text from Microsoft Word or from websites can bring with it unnecessary formatting and metadata. And sometimes this can introduce errors, meaning your post doesn’t look like you expected it to. Luckily, there is an easy way round this.

Notepad (Windows)

If you don’t already use Notepad, don’t worry, you will find it by pressing the Windows key or going to the Start menu and searching for it. It is a very basic text editor. This means if you copy and paste text from a website or from Word into it, it will automatically strip out all the formatting. You can then copy the text back into your Blackboard post and do any formatting you need within the Blackboard editor.

TextEdit (Mac)

If you use a Mac, you can do the same thing with TextEdit. Follow these instructions to find out how to make plain text in TextEdit.

Shortcut keys

As you may know, your keyboard shortcuts for regular copying and pasting are Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V (Cmd+C and Cmd+V on a Mac). On many apps you can now use Ctrl+Shift+V to paste without formatting (Option+Cmd+Shift+V on a Mac). Again, you can now do any formatting you need within the Blackboard editor.

The resulting post should look tidy and professional, and will probably be more digitally accessible as well.

A Blackboard post very similar to the original. The fonts are simpler but the post is clear and structured.

(…and if you go back into the source code, you’ll see it looks a lot nicer).

Clean source code with a bare minimum of tags to produce simple formatting

Here’s an article with a few further tips on stripping out formatting.