Punctuation Tips for Your Resume
“Are there specific punctuation rules for resume?” you might wonder. Many job-seekers think “As long as I start the sentence with a capital letter and end it with a period, there’s nothing to worry about”. However, this isn’t always the case.
Although punctuation errors aren’t global deal-breakers, correct punctuation demonstrate such personality traits of an applicant as attention to detail, ability to follow complex instructions and consistency. It would be silly to miss the opportunity to show you in a better light wouldn’t it? So, open the resume in a word processor and re-read it two, three or five times until you’re 100% sure no punctuation errors left. Here’s a guide to make this task easier for you.
Here’s a list of where to use a capital letter: beginning of the sentence, the first word in a bulleted list, company names and section headings. It is also appropriate to capitalize words which convey important information, i.e. name of the position, department name, etc. Keep in mind, however, that the excessive use of capitalization kills the effect and makes the resume look pretentious.
Should you use periods in a resume? It is surprising how a simple period often gets misused on resumes. The top 3 period errors made on resumes include:
- Two spaces after a period
- Using a period at the end of each line (and especially when the line has the phrase, not sentence)
- Omitting a space after a period.
So, how to use period right? Here’s one of the solutions. Use periods just like if you did in sentences except for bullet points. A list with bullet points can go without periods at the end of each line; the last line ends with a period.
As per the rules, hyphens are used in compound adjectives before a noun, for example, “hard-working individual”. If you have two adjectives modifying the same words, like “mid- and senior-level managers”, the hyphen is used after the first. Again, follow the consistency closely. If you use ‘client-focused’ in a summary and then your job descriptions gives ‘client focused’ without the hyphen, it destroys all the good impression.
Colons are generally used to separate two clauses when the second clause is related to the first. “Language proficiency: Fluent in Spanish and French” is the example of correct use of colons.
Semicolon is a useful piece of punctuation if used correctly. The basic rule is as follows: semicolons usually separate two clauses when the second clause isn’t directly related to the first. You can also use it to separate elements which already have commas. This will look like that: ‘Advanced user of MS Office, Excel, PowerPoint; Mac OS; and QuickBooks’. However, if you are hesitating whether to use a semicolon, it’s better to rewrite the text, as the semicolons used wrong are a turn-off.
A comma can easily mess up the meaning of the sentence if used incorrectly. First of all, it’s recommended to use serial commas, or Harvard commas (a comma before the final ‘and’ in a series), as it helps to clarify the meaning of the sentence and avoid confusions. Secondly, put the comma between clauses when necessary (check grammar rules for reference). Again, omitting the comma between clauses can completely change the meaning of what you are trying to say.
Although these are not all grammar rules applicable for resume writing, they can be a good start for quality proofreading of your resume. If you are not sure of your language skills and are looking for affordable resume proofreading, our experts can come at hand.
Resume writers recommend that you list achievements and job responsibilities using bulleted lists instead of regular paragraphs. Using bullet points makes the document easier to read and more comfortable to look through.
When using bullets, choose one type of bullet point (bullet, triangular bullet, or hyphen) and stick to it throughout the document. It will make your resume look neat and organized, as the different forms of bullets won’t distract the reader from the main thing – your resume content.
To punctuate or not to punctuate your achievements?
Bullet points work great for listing your professional accomplishments. They focus the reader’s attention in a glance and help you get noticed. However, many job-seekers question if they need to use dots at the end of each accomplishment when using bullets.
General consensus recommends using bullets if your accomplishments sound as complete sentences. In this case, using a dot makes every sense. If your responsibilities and achievements don’t sound like this, it’s acceptable that you opt out of the dot. However, whatever way of punctuation you choose, be sure to stick to it throughout the document. If you end each bullet with a dot in one place and omit the dots later in the document, it gives an impression of carelessness.
Proofread before you submit the resume
To rest assured that your resume is punctuated accurately and consistently, proofread it before using for job-search purposes. Many online spell checkers won’t spot resume punctuation issues since it’s a specific document. So, print it on paper and carefully look through words and punctuation marks to make sure your resume makes a professional impression.
How to punctuate your cover letter: Professional advice
After you’ve ensured the consistent punctuation in a resume, it’s time to make sure that a cover letter has proper punctuation as well. Cover letter shows your business writing skills to the reader or employer, so ensuring the correct use of periods and commas is a big deal. As you write cover letters for jobs, stick to the following rules:
Capitalize proper names, hard skills, and other details
If you don’t know the name of the letter’s recipient, write “Dear Hiring Manager” in capitals. The capitalization rule also applies to:
• Beginning of the sentences – use capitals at the beginning of every one sentence.
• Job title – capitalize each word in full job title, for example “I am writing to apply for Senior Product Manager role”.
• Names of software and technologies – Adobe Photoshop, Google Suite, Agile and Scrum.
• Other details according to English capitalization rules – company names, proper nouns, date ranges (May 2018 – June 2019) holidays, cities/states, and more.
Be careful with spaces
Use one space after a period, comma, or other punctuation mark. Avoid spaces before elements of punctuation and, of course, don’t put more than one space between words. Leave some white space between the lines for better readability.
Don’t use exclamation or question marks
Even if you are very interested and excited, keep the tone strictly professional and avoid these marks. The same rule applies to resumes.
Double-check the punctuation before sending
Mistakes in punctuation are easy to overlook, and they can spoil the overall impression. Do a careful punctuation check – you can use online spell check software for that. In addition to fixing punctuation, it can help you improve grammar as well.
The bottom line
There are so many views on the rules of punctuation for resume, and sometimes the opinions contradict. However, it’s you who will choose the punctuation rules for your resume to make it attractive and easier to read. You can modify these rules – but do it consistently! Again, if you’ve written ‘co-workers’ once, preserve this way of writing throughout the document. Otherwise, you’ll look as a person who failed to do a simple proofreading prior to sending the document in.