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How to Create a Plain Text (ASCII) Resume

The plain text resume (or ASCII resume) is an online document constructed without formatting in plain text file format. A plain text resume is most often sent by e-mail, but can also be sent by fax, postal mail, or courier.

Plain text resumes are heading into the sunset, but you may be stuck with the plain look until the recruiting world totally embraces handsomely formatted e-resumes.

Create your resume in your favorite word-processing program, save it, and then convert it to plain text (ASCII) like this:

  1. Click Edit → Select All.

  2. Click Edit → Copy.

  3. Click Start → Programs → Accessories → Notepad.

    This opens the Notepad program.

  4. Click Edit → Paste.

  5. Turn on the “Word-wrap” feature in the “Format” drop-down menu.

  6. Save the resume as “yourname.txt” (for example, “JohnGill.txt”).


Click here to view this resume.

Don’t forget to spell check before you save your resume as an ASCII file. Also, don’t use any characters that aren’t on your keyboard, such as “smart quotes” or mathematical symbols because they won’t convert correctly.

You know that you’re off in the wrong direction if you have to change the preferences setting in your word processor or otherwise go to a lot of trouble to get a certain character to print. Remember that you can use dashes and asterisks (they’re on the keyboard), but you can’t use bullets (they’re not on the keyboard).

Although you can’t use bullets, bold, or underlined text in a plain text document, you can use plus signs (+) at the beginning of lines to draw attention to part of your document. You can also use a series of dashes to separate sections and capital letters to substitute for boldface. When you don’t know what else to use to sharpen your ASCII effort, you can always turn to white space.

Be on guard against other common ASCII landmines:

  • Typeface/fonts: You can’t control the typeface or font size in your ASCII resume. The text appears in the typeface and size that the recipient’s computer is set for. This means that boldface, italics, or different font sizes don’t appear in the online plain text version.

  • Word wrap: Don’t use the word wrap feature when writing your resume. Odd-looking word wrapping is one of the cardinal sins of online resumes. Set your margins at 0 and 65, or set the right margin at 6.5 inches. Then, end each line after 65 characters by pressing the Enter key to insert line breaks.

  • Proportional typefaces: Don’t use proportional typefaces that have different widths for different characters (such as Times Roman). Instead, use a fixed-width typeface (such as Courier) so that you have a true 65-character line.

  • Tabs: Don’t use tabs; they get wiped out in the conversion to ASCII. Use your spacebar instead.

  • Alignment: An ASCII resume is automatically left-justified. If you need to indent a line or center a heading, use the spacebar.

  • Page numbers: Omit page numbers. You can’t be certain where the page breaks will fall, and your name and page number could end up halfway south on a page.

When you send your ASCII resume, paste it with a cover note (a very brief cover letter) into the body of your e-mail.