Resume Punctuation: Mistakes, Best Practices, and How to Get it Right

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August 24, 2023
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19
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You've probably heard the classic "Let's eat, Grandma" vs. "Let's eat Grandma" grammar pun. It's a silly example of why punctuation matters. But when it comes to punctuation on a resume, this is no laughing matter.

Punctuation is a big deal.

Correct resume punctuation helps you make a good first impression and communicate why you're the person for the job. Too many job seekers, however, let simple punctuation or capitalization errors slip through. Improve your resume punctuation (and your job prospects) with this handy cheat sheet and these punctuation tips.

3 key takeaways

  • The most common resume punctuation mistakes that job seekers make
  • The correct way to use periods, semicolons, hyphens, and more
  • How Teal's AI Resume Builder and its Resume Spell Checker feature makes using correct punctuation faster and easier

The importance of punctuation in resumes

Taking the time to think about resume punctuation during your job search might seem like a drag. But, incorrect spelling and grammar are some of the biggest resume mistakes to avoid.

When done right, punctuation serves as the cherry on top of a professional, high-quality resume—helping you impress hiring managers and get more job interviews.

By using proper punctuation in your resume (and cover letter!), you can avoid ambiguity and ensure you're communicating your information in the way you meant to. Incorrect punctuation, on the other hand, can lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations. 

Common punctuation mistakes on resumes

The good news: Most resume punctuation errors are fairly straightforward. And while you can use a tool like ChatGPT to improve your resume content, understanding mistakes, best practices, and how to get it right on the front can help you save more work and time on the back end.

Once you've learned the correct resume punctuation guidelines, you can apply your newfound knowledge to each forthcoming resume you create during your job search.

Take a look at a few of the most common resume mistakes by job seekers:

Incorrect use of periods, hyphens, or semicolons

Punctuation marks are easy to get wrong but important to get right. Often, people use hyphens vs. semicolons in the wrong place or don't know where to add periods. 

Incorrect capitalization

Many job seekers get mixed up about which phrases or titles need a capital letter and which ones don't. 

Inconsistency

Finally, once you've learned the correct way to use certain punctuation marks, remember to use them the same way every time. This creates a uniform, standard look that makes your resume appear more professional.

Avoiding common resume mistakes like punctuation errors makes you look like someone detail-oriented, well-educated, and proud of your work. And that's definitely the way you want to come across.

If you're worried that a punctuation error will slip through, use Teal's AI Resume Builder to help with the editing process. The Resume Builder includes a Spell Checker feature that highlights any mistakes you need to fix.

Specific punctuation rules for resumes

Knowing what to include and what not to put on a resume will set you up for success in the long run. Ready to get into some specific rules for punctuation on a resume? Take a look at what you need to know to write a better resume. 

Periods in resumes

Should you use periods in a resume? Absolutely! Resume periods are an important way to divide sections like your "Professional Summary" into sentences. 

Do you use periods in bullet points on a resume? If the bullet point is a complete statement, then yes. If it's a fragment, a period is not needed. For example:

  • Created and maintained data entry forms, streamlining the data entry process and reducing the time required to enter data by 20%.

While this might sound like only a fragment, it has a subject (the understood "I") and verb ("created" and "maintained"), making it a one sentence. On the other hand, these resume skills are sentence fragments, meaning they don't require periods:

  • Data retrieval and updating
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Confidentiality and regulatory compliance
  • Attention to detail

Each section of bullet points should be uniform, with either all fragments or all sentences. There's no need for multiple spaces after a period. One space is enough.

Capitalization in resumes

Resume capitalization is an important part of punctuation. As you're working on your resume, make sure to capitalize all section headings, plus proper nouns or proper names (for example, "Work Experience: Data Entry" instead of "Work experience: data entry").

Do you capitalize your job title in a resume? Yes—you should capitalize any job titles that are in headings, such as your target title, as well as in your "Professional Summary." This might look like:

Target title: Data Entry Analyst

Professional summary: Highly skilled and detail-oriented Data Entry Analyst with four years of experience..."

Bullet points in resumes 

Using a bulleted list in resume sections like your "Work Experience" and "Skills" helps make your resume easier to read. The key is to get your resume bullet point punctuation correct. 

You've already learned about periods in bullet points—use periods at the end of a bulleted sentence, but not a fragment.

But bullet point capitalization is also important. Use a capital letter at the beginning of each bullet point. And finally, use past tense when you're describing your work experience achievements. 

Semicolons in resumes

Semicolons are most commonly used to connect two independent clauses (complete sentences that can stand alone). For example, "I'm looking for a new job; I'd like to work in IT." The semicolon joins these two sentences together to create a single, more complex sentence.

You can use a semicolon in a resume throughout sections such as your "Work Experience." This might look like:

  • Retrieved data from various sources and entered it into databases; ensured accuracy and completeness of data and improved data quality by 25%.

Just remember, don't use a capital letter after a semicolon unless the next word is a proper noun or name.

Hyphens in resumes

A hyphen (-) joins two or more words together. It's different from an en dash, which is longer and denotes a range (–), or an em dash, which is the longest of all and indicates a pause (—). 

You can include hyphens on a resume to create compound words, such as saying you're skilled at cross-functional collaboration. 

An en dash is the correct punctuation mark to go between date ranges. For instance, maybe you attended college from 2016–2020 or worked in a certain position from 03/2019 – 03/2020. 

Double-check your resume to make sure you're using hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes correctly.

(If you want to make sure you got every line of it right, check out these resume editing tips for more guidance.)

Resume punctuation guidelines

Feeling overwhelmed by these rules for punctuation on a resume? Use this resume punctuation cheat sheet as a reference to have handy when you need a quick answer:

Periods

Use periods to divide your resume into sentences. If a bullet point is a full sentence, it should have a period at the end. You also don't need two spaces after a period.

Capitalization

Capitalize headers, proper nouns, and each job title. 

Bullet points

Use a capital letter at the beginning of each bullet point, and write in past tense to describe your work experience.

Commas

Use commas to separate elements in a sentence for clarity, such as items in a list, independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction, or introductory elements.

Serial commas (also known as Oxford Commas) are those immediately before a coordinating conjunction (typically "and" or "or") in a list of three or more items. Use the Oxford Comma to separate items in a series—ensuring each skill or achievement stands on its own.

Semicolons

A semicolon can connect two independent clauses or replace commas in a list of items.

Hyphens

Hyphens create compound words. En dashes go between a range of numbers or dates.

Pro Tip: Teal's AI Resume Builder includes a Spell Checker feature that can help you ensure proper punctuation. Resources like The Chicago Manual of Style are also a good place to look up any questions and learn more about important words.

Properly punctuate your resume with Teal's AI Resume Builder

From commas to bulleted lists to a simple period, punctuation is a small but mighty resume writing detail that can help you impress a hiring manager and land more interviews.

If editing the same resume over and over on your own sounds time-consuming, use Teal's AI Resume Builder to help.

The Resume Builder and its Spell Checker feature draws on the power of AI to flag any punctuation errors you need to fix, helping optimize your resume with strong punctuation and correct spelling before you start sending job applications and cover letters.

Click here to get started.

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Hailey Hudson

Hailey Hudson is a full-time freelance writer and content marketer based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She writes in the healthcare, digital marketing, education, and pet industries.

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