Microsoft Word weirdness: help me fix this!
November 17, 2023 3:23 PM   Subscribe

I have a section of text in a Word doc someone provided me that has some sort of auto-formatting applied, like the sort you have with a Table of Contents or end notes. But it is not either of those things. I need to find a way to get it to behave like normal text in the document. Confusing details inside.

The document was provided to me by someone else that I cannot ask any questions of.

The section in question is a bibliography. When I click into it, the entire section is highlighted in grey, much like a table of contents is when you click into it. I have checked and it doesn't seem to be either footnotes or end notes. The numbering does not update if I delete an item. The section also resists settings for the entire document– for example, even though "smart quotes" is the default for both my keyboard and Word, any quotes typed in this section are straight quotes.

I don't really care about how they did it. I just need this section to behave like normal text in a document vs. whatever the hell this is so I can edit it. I will gladly take any suggestions offered.
posted by rednikki to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This bibliography was created by a citation manager (such as Endnote, Zotero, RefWorks, or possibly a built in version in Word) and you need to convert it to plain text first. It should then behave properly.
This may work.
posted by cushie at 3:33 PM on November 17 [5 favorites]

My solution for this kind of thing is just to paste the text into a plain text editor, and then copy back into word from there.
posted by rockindata at 3:35 PM on November 17 [6 favorites]

I would probably do what rockindata recommends above. Then you can just delete the original bibliography.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:47 PM on November 17

I don't disagree with the others, but also what if you highlight this entire section and then choose "Normal" in Styles -- will it convert to whatever parameter your Normal style has?
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:49 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]

If you "refresh" the document, not only are you likely to see a big chunk missing or broken in one spot, but also in little bits throughout. You may have a tab referring to the add-on software that will give you the option to convert it to plain text (retaining italics) which is usually pretty reliable.

Another option is to save a working copy (in case anything breaks) find and replace all italics with highlighted italics and save that as highlighted version. Select and copy text from any version, pop it into notepad (to really strip formatting out), and copy if from notepad and paste into a new Word document. Lots of people say this is a waste of time, but my final versions of 500 page books with images and dynamic text (report style headings, captions, references to other text) very rarely crash.
posted by b33j at 5:31 PM on November 17

Not to abuse edit window, I agree with everyone else p there: that it's some kind of Citation software. If the file in its original format (say, endnote) wasn't included, the data can disappear if any of a number of changes are attempted because Word can't access the original file that produced that list.
posted by b33j at 5:34 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]

Yeah, citation management software is responsible. Definitely mess with things in a copy, things sometimes go very weird with those sections in documents.

I agree that copy/paste into Notepad and back is likely to be the most reliable method of converting the text - or it at least will tell you the fastest if you're going to run into trouble due to the underlying code if you mess with it.

If all else fails, there's converting it to PDF and copy/pasting the text from that. But it's a last resort, you'll almost definitely end up with cruft you don't want in Word as a result.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:05 PM on November 17

Best answer: Would this question & answer help?
It's on the Microsoft help forums; situation sounds similar and here's the answer:

"You can unlink the Bibliography field. Click in the bibliography and press Ctrl+Shift+F9 (on some keyboards, you have to press Ctrl+Shift+Fn+F9)."

Unless you're on a Mac, in which case use the command key instead of control
posted by Baethan at 8:08 PM on November 17

Response by poster: Baethan, you get best answer because that was the problem! You are my favorite person right now.
posted by rednikki at 11:51 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]

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