.doc is not .docx

Why? Because Microsoft upgraded Word and wanted everyone to upgrade, too, and give them some money. However, they’re not the same file type and many devices can’t read them as the same file type, even if they are very similar.

Why do some agents care about whether you send a requested full as .doc instead of .docx? It’s not because we’re nerds, or we don’t have the latest version of Word (I know I do). It’s because of our e-readers.

Whenever I ask someone for a full manuscript, I tell them to please send me a Word doc file, then specify: .doc, not .docx. When the manuscript comes in, I forward it to my Kindle, then read it on my ereader. This lets me not only keep track of my full requests but it also helps me easily upload things when I’m on the go (which is a lot).

If someone sends me a .docx file, I can’t forward it to my Kindle and start reading. I have to go to my computer, download the file, make it into a .doc file, and then forward it to my Kindle. Why? Because Kindle doesn’t currently support .docx or .pdf files, only .doc and a handful of other ones that aren’t really relevant.

Now, some clever little bugger see my request for a .doc file, then look at their document and see that it’s in .docx format. That’s probably because they’re using the new version of Word, which starts every new file automatically as .docx. They freak out. “Wait! I’m supposed to send her .doc, not .docx, but this says .docx! What do I do?”

If they’re extra extra clever, they highlight the name of their file and just delete the x, so that their file name now reads: “BrilliantNovel.doc” instead of “BrilliantNovel.docx”. Brilliant, right?

No. Because .doc is not .docx. While they are similar, the formatting is just slightly different.

So when Brilliant Writer sends me their BrilliantNovel.doc (which is just called that, it’s actually a .docx file), and I forward it to my Kindle, I get a bounceback from Kindle saying that it’s not in a correct format and to please only send .doc files. Then I go crazy for five minutes thinking, “But wait, this file says ‘BrilliantNovel.doc,’ which should be right. Oh my, is my Kindle broken?”

And then I realize that the writer probably just changed the name on the file instead of actually changing the formatting. You would not believe how often this happens. And then I narrow my eyes and glare at the screen and wonder how anyone could do such a thing.

So this post is to make sure that you don’t ever do such a thing (whether for the first time, or again). When we ask for something in a specific format, send it to us in that format. If you’re looking at a .docx file and have no idea how to make it a .doc, don’t change the name of the file, as you are not also changing the format. Instead, do this:

  1. Open your .docx document.
  2. Go to the File menu.
  3. Select “Save As…”
  4. You’ll see a Save window. Make sure you’re saving to a location that you can find later.
  5. Then you’ll see a drop-down menu for Format.
  6. Select “Word 97-2004 Document (.doc)” (yours might say something else, but you’re looking for the “.doc” part especially)
  7. Click “Save”

Now you should have a document in .doc format to send to the agent who just wants to put it on their ereader. Voila! No tricky name-changing required.

Tags:

  1. MelissaPEA’s avatar

    Thank you so much! My docx. have been causing trouble for a while and I didn’t know what to do.

  2. Missives From Suburbia’s avatar

    THANK YOU! As a freelance editor, nothing makes me nuts like getting a .docx file for all the reasons above. Even though I have the latest version of Word, I like to be portable, as do many editors and agents. It’s always safe to send a .doc file, because anyone can read it. It is the lowest common denominator.

  3. Krista V.’s avatar

    I’d heard that this was the case (that e-readers can’t read .docx files), so it’s nice to see it confirmed. Also, Word 2007 can read .doc files, but Word 1997-2003 can’t read .docx files, so it’s probably always safest to send a .doc file, even if the agent doesn’t use an e-reader for submissions.

  4. josin’s avatar

    I found out last week that all .doc aren’t created equal, either. I used Open Office and there are 2 choices for .doc — one is Windows 95 and the other is Windows XP. Apparently the earlier version can do some strange things when someone tries to open it with new software.

  5. Franziska Green’s avatar

    Gmail (Google Docs) also doesn’t like docx. I don’t either. But that’s just cuz I’m a Mac snob.

  6. Jim Hill’s avatar

    “So this post is to make sure that you don’t ever do such a thing”

    Optimist. But I like that about you.

  7. Liesl’s avatar

    Another reason I hate Microsoft. But I’m so grateful that someone pointed this out to me before I started querying. Maybe it’s not the different between request and rejection, but we hope to look informed and annoy as little as possible.

  8. MelissaPEA’s avatar

    Thank you! My docx. always cause trouble and I appreciate your posting this solution.

  9. Rebecca C.’s avatar

    Ugh, I’ve probably done this :( I don’t use Word to actually write manuscripts, and I’ve been a Mac user my whole life, so I have no idea how to use it! Thanks for this post, now I know!

  10. EricJ’s avatar

    I’m another Mac user, and MS can keep asking.
    It does make it a problem communicating with other poor souls living under the domination of one word format–Fortunately, MacOSX turned their text format into .RTF, the shared common language, and their text programs can open most of the simpler .DOC files. Not so much for .DOCX, though.
    So far, most agencies haven’t asked for attachments at all, because of anti-virus security, but when trying to communicate with the strange new Windows folks, I use Mac’s built-in engines for .RTF text and .PDF page-documents.

    (The only time I’ve had to download a Mac emulation of MSOffice for my own desktop is when we were on a critique group that used the “Insert Line Notes” button, which, unfortunately, Mac’s text program doesn’t do.
    Mac’s iOffice may probably have their own version of the function by now, but I haven’t updated my copy in years.)

  11. Cassi’s avatar

    .docx format is probably the most annoying thing Microsoft has EVER done. I have 2005 Word for Mac which is excellent, serves all my purposes swimmingly. Why would I pay big bucks to upgrade?

    I work in a job where half of the staff in central offices have .docx but the outbased can’t open .docx but the main office can’t understand that. Plus we email volunteers and half of them don’t even have word.

  12. Katrina S. Forest’s avatar

    We had an issue with .docx in my critique group a few months ago. Well, technically I had the issue because I was using OpenOffice on a Linux machine. So, really, Google docs was the only thing I had that would read it at all and it destroyed the formatting.

    What are the odds that .docx just goes away with the next version of Windows and none of us ever speak of it again? (I know, I know, I’m a dreamer.)

  13. Emily Hainsworth’s avatar

    Um…oops, I had NO idea this was an issue, Mary! It is now noted! :)

  14. Laurisa White Reyes’s avatar

    Loved this post because I can’t stand .docx! I now always save my manuscripts in .doc – but now I have another good reason. The e-reader thing, which I didn’t know. BTW, I want to buy an e-reader but have spent two years now debating over which one and have yet to make a decision. Any particular reason you have a Kindle vs. Sony or Nook?

  15. Meg’s avatar

    Just a note, in case anybody doesn’t know, if you have an older version of Word on your computer, you can download a free compatability update to read the newer documents.

  16. Brigid Kemmerer’s avatar

    Just an FYI (and this does NOT apply to sending MS’s to agents, just for personal edification), if you save your Word file as .html (“Save as webpage”), the Kindle can read that even better than a .doc conversion. When I send .doc’s to my Kindle, I lose the tab formatting sometimes, but html always preserves it.

  17. June’s avatar

    This is a great post. I had to learn this the hard way and panicked that I had lost documents when I couldn’t get them to open. Someone at work figured out what I was doing wrong. Now I just same everything as in .doc form. Thanks for sharing such a critical piece of info!

  18. Jean’s avatar

    Be warned. I just got a kindle, and while it *can* read .pdf’s it seems like Amazon took away the ability to read .doc’s. I wanted to see if they worked more easily than pdf’s do, but they won’t even show up on my kindle, and there’s nothing I can find in the user help pages on Amazon about .doc for the 3rd gen. Really surprising that they would swap one feature for the other. Especially since if you simply convert a standard document to .pdf then it’s really tiny and to zoom in it’s like zooming on a web page or image, the text doesn’t just get bigger. To get around this, I had to create a template where the manuscript page size was the same size as the screen so I could read it. That works pretty well though.

    How is the readability on the .doc? And anyone with a new gen, am I missing something and it actually does work?

  19. Aaron Shepard’s avatar

    I sympathize with your reason for preferring .doc, but your comment about Microsoft’s motivation is completely off. The doc format is notoriously vulnerable to corruption, and once it’s gone, there’s no way to recover it. Docx was created to be much more robust, and if something goes wrong, you can always bust it open with a Zip program and recover pure text. Also, doc was a closed shop, and therefore notoriously difficult for anyone else to support, while docx is a simple XML format with no secrets.

    The solution isn’t to wholeheartedly embrace an obsolete format. You should instead be hounding people like Amazon to get on the ball and support docx.

  20. Heather’s avatar

    Thank you soooo much! I too am a “lifer” with Mac. The .docx issues have been driving me crazy!
    I appreciate your generosity.
    Heather

  21. Louise’s avatar

    No matter how many times I save my manuscript as .doc (by using the ‘save as’ drop down menu, when I send it via e-mail as an attachment, it turns back into a .docx file. It’s driving me out of my mind. I’m sure the person asking for the .doc format thinks I’m an idiot, but I cannot send a .doc file without it changing back to .docx as an email attachment. Any suggestions?

  22. S.L.Siwik’s avatar

    I want to thank you for making this page. I spent three hours tearing my hair out trying to understand what I’m doing wrong,and why it would not upload my manuscript. I drove myself crazy trying to make it a .doc file. Without this page, I would have undoubtedly been sitting here for another three hours. God, I hate Microsoft some days.

  23. lee norris’s avatar

    What I’d like to know is how to change a docx Word doc on my MacBook Pro into an rtf. One publisher I want to submit to insists on the latter. Every time I try to change the docx into an rtf what I see on the screen is a greatly enlarged corner of the ms. What is this all about? Please help!

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