Writing ASCII Text Resumes


ASCII (pronounced "askee") is an acronym which stands for "American Standard Code for Information Interchange" and is used to describe files that are stored in clear text format. ASCII text is the simplest form of text, meaning there is no formatting mechanism within the document and the text is not platform or application specific. For example, ASCII is the text widely used when you read and write e-mail because it is a simple text language whose main purpose is the exchange of text information (referring to information typed within the message body of an e-mail and not to enclosures or attachments). This explains why the attempt to bold words or format paragraphs doesn't work in e-mail.

Because of its simplicity, ASCII text enables anyone to construct an on-line resume so when prospective employers retrieve your resume via the Internet or e-mail, they will be able to view it no matter what kind of computer they are using.

There are millions of people and thousands of companies exchanging information over computer networks such as the Internet. Within this complex network many different word processing applications exist (such as Microsoft Word, Mircosoft Works, WriteNow, ClarisWorks, etc.) which operate on various computer platforms (PC's, Macintosh's, Sun Spark work stations, etc.). This can make it difficult to know how to send information because you may be unsure which specific program or platform the receiver uses to view documents. Fortunately there is a standard text language which allows different word processing applications to read and display the same text information. That standard text language is known as ASCII text.


In technical terms, ASCII is a coding scheme which assigns numeric values to letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and certain other characters. By standardizing the values used for these characters, ASCII enables computers and computer programs to exchange information regardless of platform. There are 128 standard ASCII codes, each of which can be represented by a 7 digit binary number: 0000000 through 1111111. Because ASCII is the de facto worldwide standard for these code numbers, the standard ASCII character set is universal among microcomputer hardware and software. This is good news for Internet users because now you can write or paste a text document, your ASCII resume, into an Employer's Online Response Form or the message field of an email document, and it will be easily viewed regardless of the type of computer platform you and the receiver use to transfer the information.


To create an ASCII resume, all you need to do is type your resume using your favorite word-processing application, and then save it as a text only document. Do not use Rich Text Format or RTF (.rtf), use simple ASCII Text (.txt). This should be an option under your "save" or "save as" command. You can use a simple text program, like Microsoft Notepad or Wordpad to compose and save your resume as ASCII text (.txt).

Since your resume will appear as ASCII text, it will not recognize special formatting commands specific to your word-processing program, therefore, you must watch for these common mistakes:

  • Alignment - the default for ASCII is to make everything left justified (which is the preferred format for scanning resumes and online viewing) so if you want to indent a sentence or center a heading, use the spacebar.
  • Word wrap - Use this feature when composing your resume; only use hard carriage returns to insert line breaks.
  • Columns - do not use columns like in a newspaper, and do not put the headings to the left of the description, as the text will run together. Put headings above the descriptions.
  • Fonts - fonts will become whatever a computer uses as its default face and size so boldface, italics, and various sizes will NOT appear in the ASCII version.
  • Bullets - Do not use bullets, other than simple characters like"-" or "*".
  • Special characters (such as "smart quotes," or mathematical symbols) - these do not get accurately transferred in the text save; avoid using special characters.
  • Tabs - do not use tabs; use your spacebar instead.
  • Spell check - check your document for spelling and grammar before you save it as a text file.
  • Proofread - make sure to read over your entire resume after you paste it in the text area field on a website and before you hit the submit button or email it to an employer.

If you need assistance in composing your resume, visit the Resume Writing Center in the Transition Information Center. You'll find all kinds of resume writing tips.


Once you've written your ASCII text resume, you can save it as a text file and copy and paste it into a resume text area field anywhere on the World Wide Web (WWW), including on TAOnline.com! Prepare an ASCII text version of your resume, so that when employers request that you forward your resume in ASCII text via e-mail, you'll already have the document ready to send.

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