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Spelling and Grammar Tips for Resumes

9 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Preparing a Resume

When developing your resume, always pay attention to grammar and spelling throughout the document. A resume with proper grammar and no spelling errors is essential in a job search. Of all the reasons causing recruiters and hiring managers to shoot down resumes, carelessness with spelling, grammar, and choice of words rank close to the top.

Get a grip on resume grammar

Resume language differs from normal speech in several ways. In general, keep the language tight and the tone professional, avoiding the following:

  • First-person pronouns (I, we): Your name is at the top of each resume page, so the recruiter knows it’s about you. Eliminate first-person pronouns. Also, don’t use third-person pronouns (he, she) when referring to yourself — the narrative technique makes you seem pompous. Simply start with a verb.

  • Articles (the, a, an): Articles crowd sentences and don’t clarify meaning. Substitute retrained staff for retrained the staff.

  • Helping verbs (have, had, may, might): Helping verbs weaken claims and credibility — implying that your time has passed and portraying you as a job-hunting weakling. Say managed instead of have managed.

  • “Being” verbs (am, is, are, was, were): Being verbs suggest a state of existence rather than a state of motion. Try monitored requisitions instead of requisitions were monitored. The active voice gives a stronger, more confident delivery.

  • Shifts in tense: Use the present tense for a job you’re still in and the past tense for jobs you’ve left. But, among the jobs you’ve left, don’t switch back and forth between tenses. Another big mistake: dating a job as though you’re still employed (2008-Present) and then describing it in the past tense.

  • Complex sentences: Unless you keep your sentences lean and clean, readers won’t take time to decipher them. Process this mind-stumper:

    Reduced hospital costs by 67% by creating a patient-independence program, where they make their own beds, and as noted by hospital finance department, costs of nails and wood totaled $300 less per patient than work hours of maintenance staff.

    Eliminate complex sentences by dividing ideas into sentences of their own and getting rid of extraneous details:

    Reduced hospital costs by 67%. Originated patient independence program that decreased per-patient expense by $300 each.

  • Overwriting: Use your own voice; don’t say expeditious when you want to say swift.

  • Abbreviations: Abbreviations are informal and not universal — even when they’re career-specific. Use Internet instead of Net.

    The exception is industry jargon — use it, especially in digital resumes. Knowledge and use of industry jargon adds to your credibility to be able to correctly and casually use terms common to the industry in which you’re seeking employment.

A few words about spelling in resumes

Employers especially recoil from impaired spelling when the job seeker botches the interviewer’s or the organization’s name. You can Google your way to the company’s Web site to spell the organization’s name; you can call to confirm the spelling of the interviewer’s name.

Use a computer spell checker and the dictionary, in print or online at Dictionary.com. Ask someone to carefully proofread your resumes to pick up grammar mistakes or misused words.

Here is a sampling of frequently misspelled words to watch for.

accommodate guarantee personnel
address immediate recommend
all right independent referred
bureau its/it’s reference
calendar judgment relevant
category maintenance schedule
column millennium sergeant
committed miscellaneous their/they’re/there
conscientious misspell truly
definitely nuclear until
experience occasionally your/you’re
government occurrence weather/whether
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