Grammar Mistakes that Kill Resumes and How to Avoid Them

grammar mistakesOne of the benefits of a healthy social media presence is that there is never a lack of friends willing to correct even the most minor of grammar mistakes. Sure, we know the difference between there and their and your and you’re. But there’s only so much you can do when auto correct and those tiny little on-screen keyboards seem intent on tripping you up.

When it comes to your professional resume, however, there’s no excuse for poor grammar. While word processing programs have certainly come a long way, nothing beats good ole knowledge.

With that in mind, here are the top 7 grammar mistakes we see in resumes. Just as important, we’ve included tips on how to avoid them.

1. Improper Tense

Remember the days when your high school English teacher would splash red ink across your meticulously prepared research paper? Back then, no big deal. But the use of improper tense is more than just a literary faux pas on a resume. Tense conveys a sense of time. When describing duties performed in your prior positions, misuse of tense will stick out like a sore thumb. It can also cause confusion about what you did, and where.

Pick a tense to use on your resume (typically past) and stick with it throughout.  Even when speaking about your current position, be sure to use the past tense for consistency. “Performed tasks” should be used over “performs tasks” and similar phrasing.

2. Date Format Consistency

We mentioned your resume is all about dates and times already, right?  Well, this is another area where making a mistake is going to make your resume seem less than professional. All date formats included in your job history should be consistent in their formatting. The actual format doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s easy to read and understand. So pick a format and stick with it. Common examples include:

  • March 2016 to March 2017
  • 3/2016–3/2017
  • Mar. 2016 to Mar. 2017
  • March 2016–17
  • March 2016–2017

Picking and sticking with one format is easier than ever in modern word processing programs. Simply select your default date format from the appropriate menu and let the autoformat feature do the rest.

3. Capitalization

Capitalization is perhaps the bane of many forms of writing. So it’s no wonder this problem child makes an appearance as a common resume formatting error. Remember those proper nouns, first words and places all need capitalization. In addition, headings should receive the same type of capitalization as book titles. And, of course, each active word gets the upper case treatment.

Remember that company and organization names will all need capitalization, regardless of their location in a sentence. Your auto-correct feature will be helpful here, but special diligence is still needed to ensure perfection.

4. Justification and Returns

This common area could also fall under the category of formatting. Inconsistent justification and returns are easily spotted. Poor use of tabs and margins are spotted even before a reviewer begins to process the content of a resume. Extra indentation may also prove confusing for those used to following information based on a proper layout.

Instead of opting for fancy formatting, keep things simple.  Begin all paragraphs or descriptions at your left margin. Be consistent with heading placement. Use the rulers and guides available in most word processing programs to help.

5. Punctuation Mistakes

Another common stumbling block, regardless of your level of resume-writing knowledge. Punctuation is the mind’s equivalent of breaths, pauses, and inflection. Using this improperly can turn a great resume into one that appears childish. Commas, hyphens, and colons will be plentiful in your resume.

There are a host of grammar editors available that also help out in the punctuation department. This one will, unfortunately, be mostly a manual task.  Ensure consistency and placement and watch out for that Oxford comma. Use of the device is hotly debated, but whichever your preference, stick with it for consistency’s sake.

6. Misspellings

Perhaps the most embarrassing of the grammar mistakes on our list? Spelling.

Misspelled words come off as unprofessional and make the writer appear less than educated. The basics of writing is an essential skill, regardless of industry or experience level.

Automatic spell checkers are pretty useful tools for catching spelling “eros”, but they aren’t infallible. As our example shows, correctly spelled words won’t be caught up in the suggested corrections. While spell checkers are definitely a first line of defense, don’t discount the value of an old fashioned proofreading.

7. State Abbreviations

One of the more overlooked grammar mistakes? Misuse of state abbreviations, which can leave you appearing a bit uneducated in the geography department. You got that fancy degree in Maine, right?  So that’s MA, or maybe MN, MI, or possibly ME? Best practices dictate you include abbreviations any time you list a location. So it’s important to get this one right.

Of course, state abbreviations are easy to look up. If you aren’t certain, a quick online search is your best friend.

In a competitive job market, grammar mistakes mean the difference between scoring an interview and seeing your resume end up in the trash can.

Take your time. And get your resume grammar right.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Simply Hired.


Simply Hired



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