Resumes can be tricky. They must be detailed, but concise; assertive, but not presumptuous. Not only must the facts be there (and be correct), but your lists and sentences must also be error-free. In fact, proper spelling and grammar are almost as important—if not more so—than the information presented in the resume itself. This is because although you may have the education and qualifications for a certain position, inconsistency, a lack of attention to detail, and an inability to handle such an important document with care could speak volumes about your potential as an employee. Proper spelling and grammar may seem insignificant, but they are the most important aspects of any resume.
Here are ten of the most common spelling and grammar gaffes that sneak into resumes:
Many elements of a resume can be inconsistent, including anything from lists to tenses, spellings, font sizes, and styles. As with every piece of writing, consistency throughout is crucial. Inconsistencies in your resume make you look sloppy and can confuse your potential employer. To avoid this problem, take a few extra minutes to make sure that your resume is clear and consistent.
2. Incorrect hyphenation
This can mean a few things: words are supposed to be hyphenated but aren’t; words aren’t supposed to be hyphenated but are; compound adjectives are incorrectly hyphenated; or the wrong form of punctuation (an en dash or an em dash) is used instead of a hyphen. If you’re unsure about whether a word is hyphenated or if you need to use an en dash or an em dash, try doing a quick Google search for the information. Better yet, you could sign up for GrammarCamp, an innovative online grammar training course, to help you along the way.
3. Forgetting to include important information
This one seems pretty basic, but you’d be surprised by how many people actually forget to include important information or details in their resume. Whether it’s the title of a position, the name of a degree, or a graduation date, the details must be there. If they’re not, your potential employer will be left hanging and confused and will not hesitate to discard your resume.
4. Not spelling out acronyms upon their first use
As a general rule, in any type of writing, all acronyms should be spelled out upon their first use, followed by the acronym in parentheses. This way, the person reading your resume will know exactly what you’re talking about when you use a particular acronym.
5. Writing too much—or not enough
This one goes both ways. Some people write too much, failing to be concise, while others barely write enough for the reader to know what they’re talking about. A fine balance must be struck between being concise and including enough information. Write as if the person reading your resume knows nothing about your background (because they likely don’t). Pay attention to detail, and make sure to include information that is most relevant to your desired position. Another tip is to keep your resume to one or two pages. If it’s longer than that, your potential employer could lose interest.
6. Using sentence fragments without having a complete thought
A sentence fragment isn’t really a sentence at all—it’s a group of words that look like a sentence but can’t stand on their own because there is no independent clause. To be a real sentence, there must be both a subject and a verb. If either of these are lacking, you have a sentence fragment.
7. Lack of parallel structure
This one is quite common. Parallel structure means using the same pattern of words to show that two or more words or ideas are of equal importance. Doing so in your resume will help the employer understand what you are saying.
8. Improper capitalization
This one’s a no-brainer. Make sure that names, places, schools, scholarships, certifications, and other proper nouns are all spelled and capitalized correctly. This is probably one of the easiest mistake
s for a potential employer to spot, but it is also the easiest to get right the first time.
9. Contextual spelling errors
A contextual spelling error is an error in which the wrong word is used but is spelled correctly. Your spell-checker often misses this as an error, so be extra careful in your word choice.
10. Failing to write entries in reverse chronological order
This one is usually an easy fix: just make sure that your most recent education and experience is listed first. Your earliest education or experience will be last. This makes it easier for potential employers to glance at your resume and quickly see what degree you just earned, or where you’re currently working. The most recent information is typically the most relevant, so it should be listed first.
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