White Space

White space is the unmarked portion of your document. That includes margins, spaces between lines or columns, and unused spaces in graphics and charts. White space is an essential element that affects not only the aesthetics of the document, but also the effectiveness of the information that you’re trying to convey.


The use of white space is most likely the last thing on your mind, especially when you’re working on a document that needs to do a lot in a very small amount of space, like a resume. You may be tempted to greatly reduce the margins, or to cram information in without giving the reader a break to process.

In this case, it is very unlikely that you’re using white space effectively. When you organize your resume without thinking about white space, you run the risk that the reader will miss or skip essential information, especially on a quick read through. So if you’ve got an essential piece of information, like a header or a job title, you will want to make sure that it is surrounded by white space.

Here is an example of a portion of a resume where the writer has used white space ineffectively. Try glancing at this section for a couple of seconds, and see what information you can get:

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA, Tampa, FL, Peer Mentor, 6/2008-6/2009
Integrating incoming students into the Honors College, including organizing student schedules, facilitating transition to USF, and contacting them to ensure success, representing the Honors College and the university in a caring, welcoming, positive way, organizing assigned students within the Honors database

Did you get a lot of information at a quick glance? Or did your eyes skip over large chunks because of the time constraints? Because there is relatively little white space, you are more likely to have skipped over the majority of the information that the writer was trying to get across.

How can I revise my document to use white space effectively?

The good news is that revising your resume to use white space effectively is relatively simple. You should examine your document to make sure that you allow white space around essential information, such as headers, bulleted lists, and other essential information. Keep in mind that headers should have more white space above them than they do below, where the information related to the category is located.

If you want to fit as much information as you can on the page, consider using tables to use the left, center, and right hand portion of your page. Additionally, if you want to buy yourself a little more space, you might consider making double space sections into 1.5 space using the spacing lines in Microsoft Word.

Here is the revised resume section. Try scanning this for the same amount of time that you spent on the last portion:

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA, Tampa, FL 6/2008-6/2009
Peer Mentor

Integrating incoming students into the Honors College, including organizing student schedules, facilitating transition to USF, and contacting them to ensure success

Representing the Honors College and the university in a caring, welcoming, positive way

Organizing assigned students within the Honors database

Did you get more information? Here is another example using the Tables function in Microsoft Word. Try looking at this for the same amount of time that you’ve viewed the other two:

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA
Tampa, FL 6/2008-6/2009

Peer Mentor

Integrating incoming students into the Honors College, including organizing student schedules, facilitating transition to USF, and contacting them to ensure success

Representing the Honors College and the university in a caring, welcoming, positive way

Organizing assigned students within the Honors database

Behold, the power of white space. Use it to make your document more effective!