Document Formatting

One of the most difficult parts about having a job that keeps my attention, is not allowing it to eat the rest of my life. My particular job started off rather slow, as many do. But it only took a few months for it to really take off. My duties as technical writer have expanded and I am now a detective, a use case scenario creator, problem solver, and database builder. For the last couple of weeks, I have been in various training courses learning everything from ServiceNow administration, to building Use Case scenarios from colleague interviews.

In the meantime, the academic job market has opened for the season, and some deadlines are already past. While I am enjoying my current position, I still feel it important to keep all my options open. As a result, I have decided to apply to a few select academic jobs that fit my experience nearly exactly. As I mentioned in an earlier blog “Making it Matter to Your Reader,” I now view my CV design in a very different light.

A friend contacted me for help creating his CV recently and I asked him to format using tables. Of course I am happy to share my materials with my colleagues and friends, but the materials I created for last year’s job market, while they worked fine then, are rather ugly to me now that I have more technical writing experience. Formatting is key to delivering documentation to colleagues who are trying to make quick work of a lot of information. This is no different for university administration who search through hundreds of cover letters and CVs in the hiring process. When designing a CV, tables can be key to creating a crisp, uniform presentation of information. As I re-format my own CV, I am surprised by what a visual difference I have made.

Take the image below, which is a screenshot of the “Education” section of my original CV. This section is relatively static, and always at the top of my CV.


It doesn’t look terrible. Each line has coordinating information, and each degree is delineated the same way. But it doesn’t draw the eye like it would if each line were organized into a table.

Now take a look at my new “Education” section from my most current CV. Compare the visual difference a table can make. Of course, the lines of the table aren’t visible, which is also a design trick I use when formatting the document. Simply put the information into a table, and then take the lines away.



As I go through my CV and put each section in a table, the visual differences make my new CV stand out from last year’s in a positive way.

Thanks to the everyday practice of technical writing, I can never look at document design the same way again. If there’s ever a list I make of things I wish I had learned in Graduate school, having an excellent grasp of MS Word would be at the top of that list.