DiceTV: Tune Up Your Grammar

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw8YmcGX6Xw?rel=0&hd=1&w=425&h=349]

Miss Cat says you’d better pay attention to grammar when writing your resume. Mistakes can lead HR and hiring managers to suspect you’re uneducated, lack good communication skills or don’t pay enough attention to detail. Those are bad things.

So, you need to know basic grammar, possess proofreading skills, and be familiar with the nuances of resume composition.

When writing an objective or the summary of your background:

  • Don’t describe your goals or experience using “I.” Don’t say, “I reduced technical support costs by twenty percent,” say “reduced technical support costs. “
  • When talking about teams, never say “we” or “our.”
  • When talking about experience and your accomplishments, use past tense action verbs: developed, led, created, engineered, analyzed and implemented.
  • Use present tense action verbs to describe your current responsibilities.

Capitalization is tricky. The key is to be consistent throughout your document, and resist the temptation to start improper nouns with capital letters. So capitalize your previous job titles and division names –  like Senior Software Developer, Engineering Division, but be careful about using capitals for words like “engineering” or “division” in the text itself.

Resumes often contain a mix of complete sentences and phrases. Most experts recommend using periods at the conclusion of both. Again, the best practice is consistency: Either don’t use periods, or insert periods at the conclusion of every statement.

Here’s another tip: Use a formal writing style with fewer abbreviations and contractions. That way, you’re less likely to get tripped up by a misplaced period or apostrophe. Some resume writers say you should avoid all contractions. Resumes and cover letters are, after all, formal documents.

Finally, remember spell check and grammar check won’t cure poor composition skills. They can even treat company names as mistakes. Always ask a qualified proofreader to review your resume.

For more on writing resumes, visit the Dice Resume Center.

6 Responses to “DiceTV: Tune Up Your Grammar”

  1. John Saffocl

    All your advices are in the past. Many hiring managers has no writing skills at all. However business keep them, since they are cheap. There is total new grammar in many large corporations now. For example, there is no capitalization at all since the capitalization does not exists in many asian languages.

    My suggestion to you: try to find way to read current documentation in any large corporation and see the difference between your approach and real life. I understand your intent, but it is missleading.


  2. Hi John –

    Thanks for your note, but I’ve got to disagree. It’s true that in e-mail and other day-to-day communications, traditional spelling and grammar often go by the wayside. But most hiring managers and recruiters I talk to say proper writing is still something they consider when evaluating candidates, especially during the early stages. It’s not that they’re LOOKING for perfect writers, but they see errors as red flags. Anyone who ignores spelling, punctuation and those basics on their resume and cover letter – whether it’s an electronic letter or a paper one – does so at their peril.



  3. Jim Sargent

    This was helpful and I appreciate the tips. Spelling and grammar are exceptioanlly important when reviewing resumes. As a former Technical Sales Director I would review a hundred resumes for a single position. It would always annoy me and cause me to dismiss a candidate who has a strong technical background yet allows spelling mistakes and basic grammatical errors to permeate their resume. I would also call the recruiter who sent me the resume and read him the riot act for presenting a poor candidate. I don’t care what you can do or have accomplished technically if you can’t sell it in the boardroom. If I am reviewing a programmer’s resume then spelling issues are even worse because spelling counts in programming and it would indicate a high bug count in his code. Regardless of the issues, you’re resume is the window a hiring manager looks through to see you, make sure it is clean.

  4. harry wither

    I’m /w Mark, John I do not agree, as a hiring manager when I do see errors those are red flags, especially when I’m hiring people that are needed to document, and report problems. I see dozens of resumes a day, I don’t have time to decide if they can or cannot write proper English when it is not reflected in the resume.