The DELETE and BACKSPACE keys on an extended keyboard


DELETE, BACKSPACE, and Cut: What Are the Differences?

A woman thinking about the 3 ways to erase text

When do I use Delete, Backspace, and Cut?

DELETE, BACKSPACE, and Cut are three editing tools you’ll use often to delete text from a document. Knowing the differences between them will help you understand how to use them correctly. Here are some guidelines:

DELETE: On most extended PC keyboards, the DELETE key’s near the HOME, END, PAGE UP, and PAGE DOWN keys, between the alphanumeric keys and the numeric keypad. If your keyboard has a numeric keypad, you’ll find a DELETE key on it as well.

  • Laptop keyboards have a slightly different configuration, so you may need to search for your DELETE key if you have a laptop. On my large laptop, there’s a DELETE key on the top row of keys, above the Backspace key.
  • When you press DELETE in a word processing program, the program deletes the character to the right of the cursor. To delete an entire word to the right of the cursor, use CTRL + DELETE.
  • You can also delete an image from a document by clicking on it and then pressing DELETE.
Backspace and Key Keys

Backspace and Key Keys

BACKSPACE: The BACKSPACE key on a PC keyboard is on the same row as the numbers.

  • Many BACKSPACE keys have a left-pointing arrow on them to let you know that it deletes characters to the left of the cursor. This is the best keyto use to correct a typo you’ve just made.
  • To delete an entire word that’s to the left of the cursor, use CTRL + BACKSPACE.
  • DELETE and BACKSPACE work the same way when you want to delete an image . . . just select the image and press DELETE or BACKSPACE.

Cut: The Cut command has an icon that looks like a pair of scissors. You can usually find Cut on a toolbar or ribbon along with the Copy and Paste commands because they work together. Cut, Copy, and Paste commands are also on Edit menus.

  • Like DELETE and BACKSPACE, Cut allows you to remove text or images from a document.
  • Before you can cut something, you need to select it. For example, to delete a word, double-click the word to select it, and then click the Cut command.
  • You can also use the keyboard shortcut CTRL + X to cut selected text or a selected image.
  • When you use the Cut command with selected text or graphics, what you cut moves to the Windows Clipboard, which is part of your computer’s temporary memory.
  • To retrieve something you’ve cut, you’d use the Paste command. Cut and Paste allow you to move something from one place in a document to another place in the same document or to a different document.
  • If you’re not planning to move the selected text or image, I suggest you use DELETE or BACKSPACE, so you’re not using your computer’s resources to keep the cut text in the Clipboard. The Clipboard clears when you restart or shut down your computer.
  • If you cut something and then cut something else, the first thing you cut gets wiped off the clipboard. So if you’re going to paste, remember to do so as soon as possible after cutting!
  • How are the Cut and Copy commands different? The Copy command leaves a copy of the text or image in its original location. The Cut command eliminates it from the original location.

This is an example of one of the topics covered in my six-week online keyboarding class.

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About Kathy

I love being involved in education because I am always learning something new and exciting. I have been teaching and helping students for over 25 years with computer applications and keyboarding classes. Before computers, I helped students learn how to use dedicated word processors. It was a long time ago! Currently, I work at MiraCosta College, a community college in California, where I teach computer applications for the Computer Applications Department and keyboarding classes for the Business Office Technology Department. I teach one- and two-day computer courses through Community Services, and work as an Instructional Assistant II for the Academic Information Services Department. I’ve been enjoying my jobs at MiraCosta for over 20 years! Prior to MiraCosta, I worked at Eldorado Business College teaching word processing and business courses. And, for about 15 years I’ve been teaching online courses (PowerPoint 2010, 2007, & 2003, and Keyboarding) through Education to Go, a division of Cengage Learning. I find teaching and learning online an awarding experience. I enjoy reading, learning, traveling, and spending time with my family. Kathy

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