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How to convert Microsoft Word to Plain Text
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This page offers some more detailed instructions. To return to the main page
on e-mail tips & techniques, click here:

There are several different ways to convert an existing Word document to a Plain Text message. Here are two approaches; the links below provide some others. Or get a friend or coworker to show you how they do it. There may be shorter methods, depending on which e-mail software you use, and whether formatting can be disabled. While the following instructions apply to Microsoft Word, a very similar process would work in WordPerfect and other word processing software.

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Method 1: Copy and Paste Special

(1) In Word, select the text you wish to copy, or choose "edit", "select all" from the menu
(2) From the menu, select "edit", "copy"
(3) From the menu, select "file", "new", "OK"
(4) From the menu, select "edit", "paste special", "unformatted text"
(5) Again select the text you wish to copy, or choose "edit", "select all" from the menu
(6) From the menu, select "edit", "copy"
(7) Switch to your e-mail software
(8) Open the "new message" window and click within the message area (this places the flashing cursor where the text will be inserted or "pasted" in the next step)
(9) From the menu, select "edit", "paste" (or press ctrl-v)
(10) Perform any typing or editing you wish to do (but do not choose formatting features like bold, italics, or fonts). Don't forget the subject line. And if you know how, check that your e-mail software is set to send plain text, not html.

This may seem complicated, but if a friend can walk you through it, you'll find it much easier. Or use Windows Help to look up "Copy & Paste", "Editing" or "copying, information from one document to another", or the help menu or manual that came with your word processing or e-mail software. Try the exercises provided, and practice them once or twice. It's an invaluable skill for anyone who uses a computer to do even a little writing.

If you much editing or copying, keyboard shortcuts can make it much faster. But if you only do it occasionally, just use the menus or toolbar – the shortcut keys are harder to remember. Some keyboard shortcuts: ctrl-A (select All), ctrl-C (Copy), alt-e-s (paste special, in Word), ctrl-v (paste), ctrl-z (undo), alt-tab (to select the window you wish to switch to: hang onto the "alt" key while pressing "tab" repeatedly).

For more instructions on how to copy and paste, see:

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Method 2: Save As "Text Only"

(1) In Word, set the right margin to 3 inches: from the menu, choose, File, Page Setup, then type a 3 beside "Right:" ...and click OK.

(2) Set the font of the whole document to Times Roman 12 point: (a) press ctrl-A (or Edit, Select All, from the menu). This will select the whole document; (b) select "Times New Roman" from the font dropdown at the top of the screen; and (c) select 12, from the font size dropdown.

(3) Now save the file as "unformatted text": (a) click on File, Save As; (b) at the bottom of the dialog box, where it says "Save as type", choose "Text only with line breaks (*.txt).

(4) Now close the file (File, Close) and reopen it (click File, then 1) -- that is to say, it will appear as the first file listed at the bottom of the File menu.

(5) Change the font back to Times Roman: (a) press Ctrl-A; (b) use the font dropdown at the top to change the font to "Times New Roman" and the size to 12.

(6) Perform any editing required. Keep the lines short: less than 60 characters is ideal; not more than 74 characters per line. Save your changes.

(7) When done, copy the result into your e-mail software: (a) Ctrl-A to select all; (b) Ctrl-C or "Edit, Copy"; (c) switch to your e-mail software, open a new message, and click to place the cursor in the message body; (d) Ctrl-V or "Edit, Paste" to paste the text into your e-mail message.

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Method 3: Composing a New Message as Plain Text

This link explains how to compose a new message in Plain Text format, using Word, Wordpad or Notepad. It will not let you convert an existing document, as in method 1 or 2, above. Be sure to keep your lines short; press enter after every 60 characters or so (every 10 words).
more related tips:

More related topics:

How to set your e-mail software to send only Plain Text (not HTML or MIME) (instructions for many different e-mail programs & versions)

How to disable HTML in a few popular e-mail programs

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– Peter Blanchard (contact)

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