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How do I get rid of the GREY background on copied text?

Copying and pasting text from one application to another can sometimes result in the pasted text having a gray background color. This gray highlighting indicates that the text was pasted, rather than typed directly into the document. While it can be helpful to visually see what content has been copied, the gray background can also be distracting and make the text harder to read. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to remove the gray background from pasted text.

Why does copied text have a gray background?

When you copy text, the application puts it on your clipboard with some extra formatting attached to indicate that it is copied content. This allows the pasting application to distinguish text that is copied vs text that is typed directly. The gray background specifically is added by many applications as a visual cue that the text is copied.

Some key reasons why copied text includes a gray background:

  • Helps visually differentiate copied vs typed text
  • Lets you know the origin of the text is from a copy/paste
  • Provides a visual cue around text you may want to edit or format differently
  • Allows pasting applications to programmatically identify pasted content

So in summary, the gray background is added intentionally by copy/paste operations to show that text has been copied from another source.

How to remove the gray background in Word

If you want to get rid of the gray background in Word, here are a few methods you can use:

Use the Paste Options Button

When you paste text into Word, you’ll see a small clipboard icon appear next to the text. Click on this Paste Options button and select “Keep Text Only” to paste without formatting.

Use Keyboard Shortcuts

After pasting text, you can use the shortcut CTRL+Spacebar to quickly strip all formatting, including the gray background.

Clear Formatting After Pasting

Highlight the pasted text, go to the Home tab, and click the Clear Formatting button (eraser icon) to remove styling.

Change the Default Paste Setting

You can update your Word preferences so that text is always pasted as unformatted text without the gray background.

  1. Go to File > Options > Advanced
  2. Under “Cut, copy, and paste”, change “Pasting from other programs” to “Keep Text Only”

How to remove the gray background in Google Docs

Similar to Word, there are a few ways to eliminate the gray background from pasted text in Google Docs:

Paste Without Formatting

Use the keyboard shortcut CTRL+Shift+V (Windows/Chrome OS) or CMD+Shift+V (Mac) to paste just the plain text without styling.

Strip Formatting After Pasting

Highlight the copied text after pasting, and click the “Remove formatting” button (eraser icon) to strip styling.

Default to Unformatted Paste

In your Google Docs settings, change the default paste option to “Paste without formatting” so styling is always stripped.

  1. Go to Tools > Preferences > General
  2. Under “Pasting from other applications” select “Paste without formatting”

Other ways to remove the gray background

Beyond Word and Google Docs, here are some other techniques you can use to avoid or get rid of the gray background on pasted text in different programs:

Use Keyboard Shortcuts

Many applications will offer a keyboard shortcut to paste without formatting, similar to CTRL+Shift+V or CMD+Shift+V.

Paste as Plain Text

Some applications give you the option to specifically paste as plain text or unformatted text. This will strip all styling on paste.

Clear Formatting

Highlight the pasted text and use any available clear formatting options or stripping tools in the application.

Disable Formatted Pasting

For frequently used applications, look for settings to disable pasting text with formatting, restricting it to plain text.

When would you want to keep the gray background?

While the gray background can often be distracting, there are some cases where you may want to keep it:

  • Identifying sources: The gray background clearly indicates which content was copied vs authored.
  • Editing: Visually separates text you may want to edit or format differently.
  • Crediting sources: Makes it easy to see content that needs to be credited.
  • Debugging: Helps identify content coming from external applications.

Depending on your goals and context, the visual cue provided by the gray background can serve a purpose. Evaluate whether removing it entirely makes sense or keeping it (or portions of it) would be helpful.

Tips for eliminating the gray background

Here are some useful tips/best practices for removing the gray background from copied text:

  • Learn the paste shortcuts for your apps (e.g. CTRL+Shift+V for unformatted paste)
  • Double check options if paste shortcut doesn’t work
  • Strip formatting after pasting if needed
  • Adjust default preferences to always paste as plain text
  • Be selective – don’t remove background if it aids your purposes

Why does this happen in the first place?

The gray background on pasted text exists because of how copying and pasting is implemented under the hood:

  • Text is put on the clipboard with formatting metadata attached
  • Formatting indicates it is copied so the pasted app knows
  • Apps apply visual styling like gray background to show this is copied text
  • Retains source formatting by default for convenience

This standardized handling of copied text allows seamless pasting between applications. The downside is potentially unwanted styling like the gray background being applied.

Is there a permanent fix?

There is no permanent system-wide fix for eliminating the gray background on copied text. Because the background is intentionally added when copying, the only solution is to remove it when or after pasting.

However, you can configure app-specific settings to default to pasting as unformatted text. Or use universally supported shortcuts like CTRL+Shift+V to paste as plain text whenever needed.

As long as apps continue implementing copy/paste standards, the gray background will persist on copied text in general. But with the right tools and shortcuts, you can minimize seeing it.


The gray background on copied text is added intentionally by applications to indicate that content was pasted in. While it can help identify sources, the background color can also be distracting and make text harder to read.

Luckily, fixing this is as simple as changing paste preferences, using keyboard shortcuts, or stripping styling after pasting. Just be aware that you may want to preserve the gray background in some cases where it aids your purpose.

With the right tricks specific to your favorite apps, you should be able to minimize seeing the gray background only when you want to. Let the pasted text shine through!

Application Method to Remove Gray Background
Microsoft Word
  • Paste Options button
  • CTRL+Spacebar shortcut
  • Clear Formatting tool
  • Change Default Paste Setting
Google Docs
  • CTRL+Shift+V / CMD+Shift+V shortcut
  • Remove Formatting tool
  • Change Default Paste Setting
General Applications
  • Look for keyboard shortcuts
  • Paste as Plain Text option
  • Formatting Stripping tools
  • Disable Formatted Pasting

In summary, while the gray background on pasted text can be helpful in some cases, it’s easy to remove in both Word and Google Docs by changing paste preferences, using shortcuts, or stripping formatting. With the techniques outlined, you should be able to eliminate the gray background when desired and improve readability.