A formatting hack for Gmail and Google Docs users

If you’ve ever copy and pasted text from Google Docs into Gmail and hit ‘send’ before adjusting the text size, you probably noticed that the resulting text IS A TINY BIT LARGER than it should be. This is because the default font size in Google Docs is 11, whereas Gmail is set to 9.5.

I’ve got a geeky keyboard shortcut to strip the formatting (including text size) from the text I copy between applications—the technical term is text sanitization. It solves the problem for me, but I needed a solution for my editor who has precisely no interest in replicating my setup.

The steps below show you how to set the Google Docs default font size to perfectly match Gmail, so you can compose and edit in the former and paste in the latter seamlessly. These instructions assume you’re that using the default settings for both products.

Step one: [Gmail] Open up an email you’ve sent.

Step two: [Gmail] Copy a word to your clipboard. On Mac, you can double-click on a word to highlight it and CMD + C to copy it. We’re doing this because Google Docs won’t let you manually set the font size to 9.5, which Gmail uses.

Step three: [Google Docs] Paste your copied text into a new document and highlight the pasted text. If you don’t see Arial 9.5 in the formatting bar at the top, you’ll need to start over.

Step four: [Google Docs] Format > Paragraph styles > Normal Text > Update “Normal text” to match. This updates the settings for the current document, but there’s one more step remaining to apply these settings to future documents.

Step five: [Google Docs] Format > Paragraph styles > Options > Save as my default styles.

To make sure you’ve done it correctly, open up a new Google Doc to verify that Arial and 9.5 are set. Now you can copy and paste from Google Docs with abandon.

Nice work.

Willie Jackson is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Consultant & Facilitator with ReadySet, a boutique consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a frequent writer and speaker on the topics of workplace equity, global diversity, and inclusive leadership. Connect on LinkedIn or get in touch.