How to Use Linked Text to Update Word Documents

Update text across multiple docs

Updating the same text across multiple Word documents can be time-consuming, especially if you have several documents to edit. MS Word includes a handy link function that makes this process easy. Here's how to link one Word document to another Word document.

Instructions in this article apply to Word for Office 365, Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, and Word 2010.

Understanding Linking

Linking is helpful if the text is the same in all the documents, and when the text needs to be updated. This is a very specific scenario, but one that can save a lot of time.

For example, 20 Microsoft Word documents that are set up to print 20 sheets of address labels, and each page has dozens of labels. If the addresses in those 20 Word documents need to be updated in the future, don't update each document manually. Instead, make a separate document that lists the addresses. Then, link the 20 documents to the one page of addresses so that when you update an address, any document that links to it will update, too.

Another example is when several Word documents include the name and contact information for a newly hired employee and these documents are given to each new employee. Instead of typing this information in each document, insert a link to a document that contains the employee's information. This way, their contact information is always correct and formatted the same way in each document.

This type of text linking is not the same as hyperlinks that open web pages or other files when clicked.

How to Insert a Text Link in Word

Use text links to replace text across multiple Word documents at once. Text links are helpful when you insert the same block of text in several documents and this text will need to be updated at some point.

  1. In a new Microsoft Word document, enter the text you're going to link to from the other documents. Format it the way you want it to appear in the documents. For example, this document could contain the 20 addresses or the contact information for a new hire employee.

  2. Save the file to generate the link. Save the file to any location and make a note of this location.

    If you move the file containing the text, insert an updated link to the text in all the linked documents.

  3. Highlight the text you want to be linked.

  4. Right-click or tap-and-hold the selected text, then choose Copy.

    To use the keyboard, press Ctrl+C on a PC or Command+C on a Mac.

    Option menu in Word with the Copy option highlighted
  5. In the document that will contain the linked text, place the cursor where you want the linked text to go.

    The location of the linked text can be changed later, just like when moving any text.

  6. Go to the Home tab, select the Paste drop-down arrow and choose Paste Special.

    Paste dropdown menu in Word with the Paste Special option highlighted
  7. In the Paste Special dialog box, select Paste link.

  8. To paste the linked text exactly as it appears in the original document, select Formatted Text (RTF).

    Paste Special menu in Word with the Paste Link and Formatted Text options highlighted
  9. Select OK.

  10. Repeat this process as many times as you need for each document you want to link to the original text.