The smiley face from hell: How to copy and paste into your WordPress site safely

smiley-keyboard Photo Marcin Wichary via FlickrIf you’ve read your Baker Marketing WordPress Manual or been given any basic training in managing a WordPress website, you will know that you never copy and paste content directly into your site.

However, it never hurts to have little reminders of this tip which is why I want to share the story of the smiley face from hell.

Why you should never copy and paste content directly into WordPress

Let’s start with the basics.

When you copy content from another website or Word document (assuming it is your content or something you are legally allowed to copy), you are also copying hidden code and formatting data.

Once pasted into your site, this hidden code can wreak havoc with your website.

The safe way to copy and paste is to use the Paste As Plain Text or Paste From Word buttons. Read my earlier piece for more details: Why Microsoft Word is the enemy of your WordPress website.

But how bad can direct pasting really be?

The consequences of pasting directly were brought home to me recently when a very experienced WordPress user called out for help.

He was worried his website had been hacked because of these symptoms:

  • No matter what he would write on a page, every time he hit publish or update, most of the content would disappear
  • As he started typing on a new page, whatever letter he typed first would just start repeating itself indefinitely
  • If he went into already established pages to make updates, they would break and become unpublishable.

After some investigation I discovered that the culprit was a little smiley face that he had copied when copying a the text of a Tweet (a message on the social network, Twitter).

Smiley faces, or emoticons, are made up of strings of characters so that your browser knows what emoticon to display.

In this case, that string was fundamentally conflicting with his WordPress website.

Had he used the Paste As Plain Text button to copy the Tweet, he would have had the text of the tweet (minus the smiley face) and a safe, robust website.

Happy pasting.

Smiley keyboard by Marcin Wichary via Flickr

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