Convert Your Word Doc into a Plain-Text Resume

Word .docs look terrible as plain-text files if you just change the extension. Follow these steps to ensure your formatting meets best practices no matter what version you’re using.
By Lisa Vaas


If you’ve spent time carefully selecting the right font for your resume, aligning the margins and crafting a clean outline of justified section titles and subtitles, the last thing you want to do is render the whole thing in plain text. But that’s just what you need to do, said several resume-writing experts, including Barbara Safani, owner of the career-management firm Career Solvers and .

Once they have the content of their resume prepared, job seekers must create an alternate, plain-text, internet-ready version of their resumes for those occasions when it is requested, and it often is.

Many online job boards and corporate application sites will only read plain-text formats like ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) that don’t recognize fancy formatting like bullet points, fonts, margins, or bold or italicized text. Furthermore, cutting and pasting your resume from a Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF document into an e-mail will result in a mess of disjointed lines and passages that don’t make sense without the bold or italics, tabs and bullet points meant to set them apart.

Just changing the extension of your resume file doesn’t change its format and make it magically ready for plain text. The document must be recast to adjust for the elements that relied on design to communicate. Below are the steps necessary to transform your resume into a plain-text file.

Saving your Word resume as ASCII text

1. Open a simple text editing program such as Notepad (on the PC, under Start > Programs > Accessories > Notepad) or SimpleText on the Mac.
2. Start Word or whatever word-processing program you use.
3. Open the resume file. Double-check spelling and grammar, particularly if you’ve made any changes.
4. Highlight all the text in the document.
5. Copy the highlighted text into your Clipboard.
6. Switch to the Notepad or SimpleText editor.
7. Paste the copy of the resume file into a new editor window.
7. Save the document as plain text with line breaks.
8. Set the document page at 60 characters per line.
9. Omit bolding, italics and underlining from document.
10. Check for any symbols that were inadvertently changed during the conversion process (e.g. a bullet point will become an asterisk*).
11. Remove tabs, columns and bullets and again save the document with line space breaks.
12. Use spaces rather than tabs to line up text in the document.
13. To make text stand out, use white spaces and/or full capitalization, or frame section titles with characters such as equal signs (=), the underscore key (__) or asterisks (*):


Lisa Vaas covers resume writing techniques and the technology behind the job search for Ladders.

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