As I was thinking of topics for my next blog post, I began to ask myself how to make grammar more interesting. Unless you are an utter geek like me, you probably couldn’t care less about the intricacies of weaving words together to create syntactical grammar perfection. Really, you probably only care about knowing enough grammar to not sound like an idiot when you email either your coworkers or your kid’s English teacher (that’s me). However, it is important to know some functional grammar skills to make sure your resume is in tip-top shape so that on the job search, you really don’t look like an idiot. So, in my attempt to make grammar a little more interesting, I present to you in Buzzfeed fashion, the top five grammatical errors in resumes.
1. Creating a list, parallel structure, and wording
One of the biggest issues that I see in resumes involves list making. I love, love lists in a resume, but in order to use them effectively, you must make sure that all parts of your lists are worded in parallel structure. As defined by the OWL (Purdue Online Writing Lab), parallel structure is when you use “the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance.” Also, it just sounds better. If you notice the title of this section, I did not create parallel structure. If we want to get really nit-picky, I followed this pattern: verbal phrase, noun, noun. In order to fix this, I would need to make all of my list parts either verbal phrases that start with -ing OR make all of my list items nouns. So, these would be appropriate: creating a list, making it parallel, and wording it accordingly; or list creation, parallel structure, and diction. This may sound unnecessary, but on your resume, your use of parallel structure not only makes your resume easier to read, but it also subliminally sends the message that you are super smart and organized. Think I’m stretching here? Just think of how hiring managers may view your lack of eloquence in communicating your skills.
2. Who cares about an Oxford Comma?
I do! That’s who! I’m reminded of a Vampire Weekend song about an Oxford comma with a slightly inappropriate lyric that argues that those who care about the Oxford comma are a bit pretentious. In grammar circles, it is a hotly debated topic on whether or not it is necessary. What is it though, since so many people really don’t know what it is. It is that final comma before the conjunction in a list. Some argue that the conjunction serves as enough of an indicator that the list is over, but sometimes, I believe there is too much ambiguity, and the last thing you want to do in your resume is leave anyone with questions. I offer this lovely meme to illustrate my point:
So, use the Oxford comma, please! After all, it could cost you millions.
3. It’s a tense situation
This next one is an easy fix and not nearly as debatable as the Oxford comma. It is all about what tense to use. In short, for your present position, you should use present tense; and for past positions, you should use past tense. Seems easy, right? Well, not entirely. Let’s look at an example, and this example is correct.
You may notice that the first bullet point is in present tense and the second bullet point is in past tense. This is okay because the first bullet point represents a continual action that keeps on occurring. The second bullet point is a moment in time that happened in the past; this awesome pharmacist who was so amazing that he or she earned employee of the month for (what?) three consecutive months is not necessarily earning employee of the month every single month over and over. So- past tense.
4. Executing Powerful Language
Remember when I talked about the subliminal power of language with parallel structure? The same is true with verbs. I am a big fan of using verb first language in resume bullet lists. This means that you use strong, active verbs that represent your actions in a pharmacy or a classroom. They should focus on your active roles and achievements rather than your duties. As a teacher, duty is a definitely a four letter word. Subliminally or not, you want the hiring team to see you as an active member of your profession, not someone who just shows up. Words like coordinate, administer, collaborate have so much more power than words like responsible for or did. Our language is full of amazing words- use them! Plus, by using these verbs as the first words in your bullet list, your resume will have complete parallel structure.
5. It paints a picture!
If you are an English teacher, you have probably seen the phrase, “It paints a picture in the reader’s mind.” Usually my students use this as analysis for imagery. Well, duh. That’s what imagery is supposed to do. The problem with this type of statement is its vagueness. On a resume, vagueness about your job can make the hiring managers have the same face that I have when I read “It paints a picture.” They will ask, “What does that even mean?” If you are a pharmacist, and you say that you prepared and dispensed medications, isn’t that what a pharmacist does? Eliminate the vagueness and tell how you knocked this out of the park by meeting goals with specific patient satisfaction numbers. If you are a teacher, and you say that you taught American literature, revise it by discussing pass rates and assessment scores. As much as my qualitative self hates to admit it, people like to see some quantitative data. Give those numbers to show that you know how effective you are.
Well, that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed my attempt to make grammar a little more entertaining. As your ticket out the door (you know exactly what this is if you are a teacher), share this post and tell all of your teacher and pharmacy friends about Academy & Apothecary! We’d love to help make your resume powerful, professional, and memorable.