Save Your Files Right … Make Your Client Happy

When you first talk to a client about an assignment, ask what type of files they want. Most likely, they'll say Microsoft Word. It's the standard business word-processing program.

What if you don't own Word? Are you going to have to spend over $200 to get it (or between $370 and $480 for the full Microsoft Office suite of applications)?

Don't worry. You don't have to buy Word. All you have to do is know how to save your documents in a way that will allow your clients to open them and read them the way you intend them to be read.

Here's the trick:

When you go to save your document, click on the button that says something like "Format" or "Format to Save In." If you have the option to save in Word format, use that.

If Word format is not available, the best way to save the document is in RTF (Rich Text Format). RTF files preserve most of your formatting, including bolding and italics.

Your "last resort" option is to save the file in Plain Text Format. (Do NOT use "Text with Line Breaks.")

When saved as plain text, your file will have NONE of the formatting you want to include. So if you must save it this way, you're going to have to indicate the intended formatting in the document.

For example:

  • If you intend a word/words to be in boldface, indicate that in brackets. If, for example, you want the words "100% guaranteed" to be bold, you would do it this way:

    [bold] 100% guaranteed [end bold]

  • If you intend a word/words to be in italics, indicate that in braces. If, for example, you want the words "my personal recommendation" to be in italics, you would do it this way:

    {italics} my personal recommendation {end italics}.

In plain text, you won't be able to use special characters (like curved apostrophes and "smart quotes"). And you won't be able to indicate the beginning of a new paragraph by indenting it with the tab key – though you can do it manually by using your space bar.

Saving a document as plain text is far more time consuming than saving it in Word format or RTF. But if you have no other choice, at least you'll be able to get your files to your clients in a way that will allow them to read them and understand the way you mean them to look.

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Published: December 27, 2004

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