Grammar may seem like a minor detail, but proper resume punctuation matters. It makes your resume easier to read and helps you make a professional, polished first impression.
While some punctuation rules are universal, others might vary based on personal or regional preferences. The most important rule for resume punctuation is consistency. General grammar rules apply, like capitalizing proper nouns and ending sentences with periods, but above all, you want to choose a style and stick with it. Proofread to catch pesky typos and avoid special characters or complicated fonts that interfere with ATS scanners.
In this article, we’ll discuss must-follow resume punctuation rules, answer common punctuation questions, and explain how to correct typical punctuation mistakes. Don’t worry; this isn’t English class. These rules are quick, simple, and easy to understand.
What do recruiters really think about resume punctuation?
Most recruiters automatically dismiss resumes that contain typos or incorrect grammar. This may seem petty, but punctuation mistakes make your resume harder to read and are seen as a lack of attention to detail and a general disregard for the recruiter’s time.
But don't fret! Resume punctuation is not rocket science. Follow these simple rules, and your resume will be polished and professional in no time. You can also use our Resume Grammar Checker to scan your resume and do all the hard work for you.
Common resume punctuation questions
Here are answers to the most common resume punctuation questions.
Do you end bullet points with a period?
Most bullet points are not full sentences, so you can choose to end them with a period or not, depending on your preference. It is more common not to, but either is acceptable. The most impoirtant thing is consistency.
Do abbreviations need periods?
Standard abbreviations like USA, IT, CEO, or BA do not need periods, but again, it’s a personal preference. If you do use periods for abbreviations, remember to include a period at the end as well.
Incorrect: B.A, C.E.O
Correct: B.A., C.E.O.
Oxford commas? Yes or no?
Oxford commas - commas that appear before the final item in a list - are a US grammar rule. However, those writing in UK English should consider including Oxford commas when listing skills, as it helps improve the comprehension of long lists. Both ways are acceptable.
No Oxford comma: Proficient in Java, C++, Python and SQL.
Oxford comma: Proficient in Java, C++, Python, and SQL.
Do job titles need capital letters?
Capitalize job titles when listed as work experience headings or if they appear before someone’s name, such as “Unit Chief Joe Smith”. General job titles, such as “customer service representative”, do not always need capitalization, but you can choose to do so to maintain consistency.
Most common punctuation mistakes
The most common resume punctuation mistake is inconsistency. Many grammar rules are based on personal preference, so it doesn’t matter how you write something as long as you’re consistent throughout your resume. Typical inconsistencies include date formatting, period use, and mixing UK and US English.
Rules for resume punctuation
A comprehensive list of go-to rules for modern resume punctuation.
Only list days when it’s specifically relevant, such as for qualifications or licenses; otherwise, list months and years. Separate dates with spaces, slashes (/), or hyphens (-) depending on preference.
- Numerals: 01/2022
- Month names: January 2022
- Year abbreviation: 01/22
- Month abbreviation: Jan 2022
- Day/month/year: 10/01/22
- Month-day-year: Jan-10-2022
Always capitalize proper nouns, job titles, company names, abbreviations or acronyms, and the start of sentences or bullet points.
Use of commas
Commas are used to separate lists, phrases, or clauses, but not when a list is only two items long. As explained above, using an Oxford comma for lists is optional but recommended.
When writing dates, percentages, metrics, or ranges, write numerals (1-5) instead of words (one to five), as this makes your statements easier to scan and maintains consistency.
Incorrect: Managed a team of 5 in 2020 and twelve in 2021.
Correct: Managed a team of 5 in 2020 and 12 in 2021.
Don’t use ellipses (...) on your resume, as they look unprofessional. Replace ellipses with commas or semicolons.
Only use an ampersand (&) if it’s part of a company name or title, such as Dolce & Gabbana. Never replace the word “and” with “&”, as it looks informal and unprofessional.
Incorrect: Led & managed sales & marketing teams
Correct: Led and managed sales and marketing teams
Apostrophes indicate possession, such as “Manager’s clients.” Do not use apostrophes for years or to indicate plural abbreviations.
Incorrect: 1900’s, MBS’s
Correct: 1900s, MBAs
Colons and semicolons
Colons are used at the start of a list, whereas semicolons link two related statements.
Incorrect: Skills are; Java, Python, SQL.
Correct: Skills: Java, Python, SQL.
Hyphens and dashes
Hyphens are used to connect a compound word (part-time), en dashes are used to indicate ranges (2018–2021), and em dashes are used between phrases for emphasis (—). Which compound words you hyphenate will depend on whether you're writing in UK or US English.
Parentheses ( ) are used to provide additional information in a sentence, but overuse can make your statements convoluted and hard to follow.
Incorrect: Implemented new software (Salesforce) to improve (by 25%) sales.
Correct: Implemented new Salesforce software, improving sales by 25%.
Avoid special characters or symbols, such as ★, ©, é,™, as these make it harder for ATS to scan your resume.
Exclamation marks, such as “I'm so excited!” may look enthusiastic but are generally seen as unprofessional on a resume.
Periods and quotation marks
In US English, periods go inside quotation marks. In UK English, they go on the outside. UK English: Managed the "Rise Project".US English: Managed the "Rise Project."