Top 7 Resume Grammar Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

One 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.  In a competitive job market, too many grammatical mistakes can mean the difference between scoring an interview and seeing your resume end up in the circular filing bin known as the trashcan.  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, and tips on how to avoid them.

1) Improper Tense

Harkening back to the days when your high school English teacher would splash red ink across your meticulously prepared research paper, 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 and potentially cause confusion about what you did where.

The Fix:  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 and to help avoid the urge to change things up.  “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

What to do: 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, with each active word getting the upper case treatment.

Helpful Tip: 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, or tabs and margins for the youngins amongst our readers, is easily seen before a reviewer even begins to process the content of a resume.  Mistakes in this area can also be damaging as breaking up job experience or extra indentation may prove confusing for those used to following information based on the proper layout.

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

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.

The fix: There are a host of grammar editors available that also help out in the punctuation department, but 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 consistencies sake.

6) Misspellings

Perhaps the most embarrassing grammar mistake on our list of items to watch for, spelling can lead to a unique brand of resume mistakes.  Misspelled words come off as unprofessional and make the writer appear less than educated in the basics of writing which is an essential skill, regardless of industry or experience level.  

Handy hints: 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, even if they happen to be the completely wrong choice for the scenario.used incorrectly.  While spell checkers are definitely a first line of defense, don’t discount the value of an old fashioned proofreading.

7) State Abbreviations

Maybe one of the more overlooked grammatical errors, misusing state abbreviations 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?  Given that best practices are to include abbreviations any time you list a location, it’s important to get this one right to pass on accurate information to the potential employer.  

What’s the Fix: State abbreviations are easy to look up.  If you aren’t absolutely certain, a quick internet search is your best friend.

Have any other grammatical tips or pet peeves to share with resume writers?  Be sure to leave us a comment!


Article Updated From the Original on December 10, 2017