Using Overtype and Insert Modes in Microsoft Word

What's the difference? We'll explain

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Microsoft Word has two text entry modes: Insert and Overtype. These modes each describe how text behaves as it's added to a document with pre-existing text. Here, we'll explain what these two modes are and how to use them.

This guide applies to Word for Office 365, Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, and Word 2010.

Insert Mode Definition

While in Insert mode, new text added to a document simply pushes any current text forward, to the right of the cursor, in order to accommodate the new text as it's typed or pasted in. It's the default mode for text entry in Microsoft Word.

Overtype Mode Definition

In Overtype mode, text behaves much as the name implies: when text is added to a document where there is existing text, that existing text is replaced by the newly added text as it's entered, character by character. 

How to Change Type Modes

If you want to turn off the default Insert mode in Microsoft Word so you can type over current text, there are two ways to do this. The simplest way is to press the Insert key, which toggles the mode on and off.

You can also set the Insert key to toggle Overtype mode on and off instead. To do that:

  1. Go to File > Options.

    Screenshot of Word 365 with Options highlighted
  2. Choose Advanced in the Word Options dialog box.

  3. Go to the Editing header and pick one of the following:

  • To use the Insert key to control Overtype mode, check the Use Insert key to control overtype box.
  • To keep Overtype mode enabled always, select the Use overtype mode check box.
Screenshot of editing options in Word 365