Alternative Text from Word Displaying in PDFs

When inserting images into a Word document (or any other MS Office application), Office might try and add some accessibility features i.e. alternative descriptive text for screen readers or for when an image is not showing for some reason.

This text will be kept with the picture when the Word document is sent to someone else or even if the document is converted into PDF format. Normally, this is not a problem. However, when an exam has been set and a student moves their mouse over the image…and the image gives them ALT text which is part of the answer to the question, well, that’s not good!


Above is an example of a picture that was downloaded from the Internet and inserted into a Word document. Upon insertion, Word automatically tried to detect what the picture was, and created some ALT text (Alternative text).

The ALT text will be visible if you choose to EXPORT the Word doc (File – Export) into PDF format. Word retains the image’s information. See the example PDF screenshot below. The mouse moving over the image in the PDF has revealed the ALT text.

If you don’t want the ALT text to be accessible in your PDF format of the file, you can choose one of the two following options:

  1. Remove the ALT text from each image (double-click the image and click the ALT Text tool in the Accessibility group in the Picture Format tab)
  2. PRINT as a PDF (rather than export). Printing as PDF will not include the ALT text. Click FILE – PRINT. Choose a PDF printer.

I highly recommend Option 2. It is the easiest and least cumbersome.

I also recommended not to use images that are watermarked as these will most often be tagged with metadata and ALT text for online tracking purposes.

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