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Grammar Tips for Resumes and Cover Letters

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If there is any place to strive for perfect grammar, your resume and cover letter are it.

Hiring managers, on average, spend no more than a few seconds scanning each resume, so an impeccable first impression is essential for landing an interview. Don’t let a silly mistake land your application in the discard pile.

You can find lots of grammar guides out there that cover the most common mistakes (its vs. it’s, affect vs. effect, etc.), but do you know whether it’s correctly spelled “Bachelor Degree” or “bachelor’s degree”?

Check out our newest grammar guide designed specifically for polishing your resume and cover letter!

Three years experience or three years’ experience?

This correct answer is “three years’ experience.” In this case, you are using a possessive form—the experience you gained during those three years belongs to that time period. Therefore, it is the experience of three years, or three years’ experience.

Note: You can also avoid confusion by replacing the apostrophe with the preposition “of.” Try saying something like “I have three years of experience in business sales.”

Bachelor Degree or bachelor’s degree?

This one is a little more confusing. If you are mentioning the full and official name of your degree, you should capitalize the title and leave off the apostrophe. So, you would write:

  • Bachelor of Arts in English Literature
  • Master of Architecture

However, if you are not listing the full official name of your degree, then you should use all lowercase and include the apostrophe.

  • After obtaining my bachelor’s degree in chemistry, I interned at a local company.
  • While obtaining my master’s degree, I was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

Note: On the education section of your resume, list the official name of your degree (capitalized and without apostrophe). On your cover letter, for brevity’s sake, you don’t have to use the official title every time.

Experience in Website Design or website design?

Capitalization is a powerful tool, but overutilizing it to add emphasis to nouns can backfire and annoy resume readers. As a general rule, only proper nouns should be capitalized (institution names, software names, or cities).

X

After graduating from University, I worked in Automotive Sales at an International Company and learned Web Programming during my free time.

After graduating from stanford university, I worked at apple and learned how to use adobe indesign.

After graduating from university, I worked in automotive sales at an international company and learned web programming during my free time.

After graduating from Stanford University, I worked at Apple and learned how to use Adobe InDesign.


Note: Capitalization mistakes are some of the most common errors in resumes and cover letters. Before submitting your application, read through your documents and make sure that
every capitalized word is a proper noun. If you’re unsure, a quick Google search will likely provide the answer.

To capitalize or not to capitalize bullets?

Speaking of capitalization, another common source of confusion is capitalization in bullet points. Rules surrounding bullet punctuation are flexible. This means that you can choose whether you want bullets capitalized or not, as long as you do it consistently.

However, the one exception is that when each bullet is a complete sentence, you must capitalize it and end with a period.

My time managing the company’s social media account led to company-wide results:

  • Attendance at fundraising events increased by 50%.
  • The company’s Instagram account reached two thousand followers.
  • Donations for 2019 were three times as high as the previous year.

If the bullet points are not complete sentences, you are free to choose whether you want to capitalize the first word.

Note: Whether you choose to capitalize bullets or not, it’s important to do it consistently. Either every bullet in the resume should be capitalized, or every bullet should be lowercase.

To Oxford comma or not to Oxford comma?

The Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, goes in between the last and next to last items on a written list (“I enjoy reading, biking, and cooking.”). The Oxford comma is not grammatically necessary, and many people choose not to use it.

However, in certain instances, the lack of comma can cause confusion.

“I was chosen to present at a conference attended by Kim Kardashian,
the president of the U.S. and the CEO of General Motors.”

In this instance, it’s confusing whether Kim is both the president of the United States and the CEO of General Motors, or whether you are referring to three separate people. Although it isn’t grammatically necessary, it can be a good idea to use the Oxford comma in resumes since these contain many lists.

Note: As with bullet capitalization, what matters most with comma usage is that it remains consistent throughout the document. If you opt to use the Oxford comma, make sure you use it throughout.

For more resume and cover letter tips, check out our other quick guides: The 5 Most Important Resume Tips if You Want to Get Hired and Real, Practical Advice for a Cover Letter that Gets You Hired.