How to Cut, Copy, and Paste in Microsoft Word

Use Word's buttons or keyboard shortcuts to cut, copy, and paste items

A screen shot of Word 2016's Home tab with Cut, Copy, and Paste showing.
The Home tab contains Cut, Copy, and Paste commands. Joli Ballew

The three commands Cut, Copy, and Paste, may well be the most used commands in Microsoft Word. They let you easily move text and images around inside a document, and there are several ways to apply them. Whatever you cut or copy using these commands is saved to the Clipboard. The Clipboard is a virtual holding area, and the Clipboard history keeps track of the data you work with.

Note: Cut, Copy, Paste, and the Clipboard are available in all recent editions of Word, including Word 2003, Word 2007, Word 2010, Word 2013, Word 2016, and Word Online, part of Office 365 and are used similarly. The images here are from Word 2016. 

More About Cut, Copy, Paste, and the Clipboard

A graphic with scissors, files, trash cans, and other icons.
Cut, Copy, and Paste. Getty Images

Cut and Copy are comparable commands. When you cut something, like text or a picture, it is saved to the Clipboard and only removed from the document after you paste it somewhere else. When you copy something, like text or a picture, it is also saved to the Clipboard but remains in the document even after you paste it somewhere else (or if you don’t).

If you want to paste the last item you’ve cut or copied, you simply use the Paste command, available in various areas of Microsoft Word. If you want to paste an item other than the last item you’ve cut or copied, you use the Clipboard history.

Note: When you paste something you’ve cut, it is moved to the new location. If you paste something you’ve copied, it is duplicated at the new location. 

How to Cut and Copy in Word

There are several ways to use the Cut and Copy commands and they are universal to all versions of Microsoft Word. First, you use your mouse to highlight the text, image, table, or other item to cut or copy.

Then:

  • From the Home tab on the Ribbon, click Cut or Copy.
  • Right-click the selected text and choose Cut or Copy.
  • Use the key combinations Ctrl + X to cut; use Ctrl + C to copy. These are the keyboard shortcuts for Cut and Copy and are universal to most applications.

How to Paste the Last Item Cut or Copied in Word

There are several ways to use the Paste command that are universal to all versions of Microsoft Word. First, you must either use the Cut or Copy command to save an item to the Clipboard. Then, to paste the last item you cut or copied:

  • From the Home tab, click Paste.
  • Click where you’d like to move or copy the data to (to insert your cursor), right-click there, and choose Paste.
  • Use the key combinations Ctrl + V to paste. This is the keyboard shortcut for Paste and is universal to most Microsoft Office applications

Use the Clipboard to Paste Previously Cut or Copied Items

A screen shot of the Clipboard in Word 2016.
The Clipboard. Joli Ballew

You can’t use the Paste command as outlined in the previous section if you want to paste something other than the last item copied. To access items older than that you need to access the Clipboard. But where is the Clipboard? How do you get to the Clipboard and how do you open the Clipboard? All valid questions, and the answers vary based on the version of Microsoft Word you’re using.

How to Get to the Clipboard in Word 2003:

  1. Position your mouse inside the document where you want to apply the Paste command.
  2. Click the Edit menu and click Office Clipboard. If you don’t see the Clipboard button, click the Menus tab > Edit Office Clipboard.
  3. Click the desired item in the list and click Paste.

How to Open the Clipboard in Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016:

  1. Position your mouse inside the document where you want to apply the Paste command.
  2. Click the Home tab.
  3. Click the Clipboard button.
  4. Select the item to paste and click Paste.

To use the Clipboard in Office 365 and Word Online, click Edit in Word. Then, apply the appropriate Paste option. 

Pro Tip: If you're collaborating with others to create a document, consider using Track Changes so your collaborators can quickly see the changes you've made.