Resume Boot Camp – Grammar

Welcome back to our final installment of our Resume Bootcamp! We’ve come so far! Your page has been fastidiously formatted to within an inch of its life, your bullet points have been carefully cultivated, and your verbiage is deliciously diversified. It’s time to put on that final glossy coat and to make your resume really shine. Let’s talk about grammar.

This is one of the most overlooked aspects of a resume – but the most important. Of course, you want something that has a good look and design to it. But that won’t serve you well if your resume is unreadable.

Checking Your Verb Tenses

A good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to verb tenses – if you currently work at that position, the verbs you use should be in the present tense (more on this in a minute). If you worked at a position in the past, those verbs should be in the past tense. Pretty simple. You’ll especially want to double check this every time you come back to update your resume.

Here’s where most people get tripped up with present tense verbs on resumes: they conjugate their verbs to third person, rather than to first person. Confused? Here’s an example:

I maintain employee payroll information in the company accounting software.
She maintains employee payroll information in the company accounting software.

Specifically look at the underlined words. It’s a small difference, but the first example sentence makes more sense in this context because it’s talking about all the things that you’ve done, not some other person in the cubicle next door.

A good way to make sure you’re getting this right every time is to write out all your bullet points as complete sentences in the first person, like the first sentence in the example. Then, (since we all know you’re talking about yourself on your own resume) you can go back in and delete all the “I”s and avoid the redundancies there. Minimal effort required.

Punctuation

First, let’s mention the period. To keep this short and sweet: it’s all or nothing with periods. Either you have one at the end of every bullet, or you don’t have any. (If you have multiple sentences in a bullet point, that counts, and you’ll need to add in the periods on the ends.)

Next, the semicolon. The semicolon should not be treated as a comma. It’s not a comma. We have commas for that. In resumes, semicolons are almost never needed because your bullet points shouldn’t be long enough to require one. If you do find yourself wondering if you should use a semicolon, remember: semicolons are used to connect two clauses that are related to each other or have similar ideas; that is the only time to use one. (See what I did there?)

Now for the comma. It will most likely be what you use in your resume the most, probably because you are using them in your lists. But they also separate cities from states in addresses and bring different phrases together in sentences. They’re very easy to use, and your best friend when it comes to punctuation. Just make sure you use the Oxford comma!

Capitalization

This is very simple, and you probably don’t have many mistakes at all in this department. But for the sake of clarity, here’s a short list of things that should be capitalized on your resume.

  • Your name
  • City names (where you work[ed], went to school, and where you live)
  • Company/School names
  • Job titles (not just yours, but those you refer to in your bullet points)
  • Month names
  • The first letter on every bullet point
  • The first letter after every period
  • Proper names (names of software or department/team names)

Some Miscellany

And finally, some other tips, tricks, and pet peeves that just wouldn’t fit anywhere else!

  • It’s PowerPoint, not Powerpoint or Power Point. It’s a small thing, but it’s also the name of a very famous software, whose correct spelling is very easily looked up on the internet.
  • Additionally, it’s QuickBooks.
  • Concerning education degrees – (Master/Bachelor) of (Business/Fine Arts/etc.) in (Chemistry/International Relations/etc.) No “Master’s/Bachelor’s/Associate’s”, please.
  • For your current position, “May 20xx – Present” sounds grammatically better than “May 20xx – Current”. I know it’s technically your “current” position, but just trust me here.
  • At least in the most recent iteration of Microsoft Word, if you drag your cursor to the far-right side of the page and double-click, it will switch to the right alignment. Even cooler – if you already have text on that line with the left alignment, that text will stay in place! This is a great trick for lining up your dates for your past positions on the same line as the company or job title and making them look crisp.

Congratulations!

You’ve done it! You now are in possession of a completely formed, beautifully polished resume that’s chomping at the bit to be submitted to potential employers. You’re ready to get out there and hit the pavement with confidence and poise. We wish you the best of luck, and as always – if you’re currently in the job market head over to our Open Jobs page. It’s regularly being updated with the new, hot positions that come through our agency and we’d love to hear from you (and see that brand new resume you’ve just completed)! Happy hunting!

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