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How to Write a Better Résumé

Fix the most common mistakes that can keep you from getting the job you want.

By
Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #248

How to Write a Better Resume

Friends and family often ask me to review their résumés before they send them to potential employers, and the most common error I see is that people fail to use parallel construction in lists of accomplishments or responsibilities.

How to Write a Better Résumé

You probably did lots of things you want to highlight for a potential employer. For example maybe in your last job you were responsible for making coffee, decoration hanging, and you ran the office football pool. That's sure to impress them, right?

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It will impress them more if you change it so your three grueling duties are written using parallel construction. It's a mishmash the way it is now, the verbs are in different forms and in different places, and the last part (you ran the office football pool) is a whole clause. We can clean it up by making each part start with a gerund—an “ing” form of a verb:

I was responsible for making coffee, hanging decorations, and running the office football pool.

There, much better, each part is a gerund phrase. They match.

Start each item in a list with the same verb form or article.

More Ways Using Parallel Construction Helps You Write a Better Résumé

Although the most common errors I see are using different verb forms or phrase forms, occasionally people will jumble their articles or prepositions.

Here's a sentence that could be better:

My team won best complainers, the most likely to leave early, and least likely to turn off the lights when we leave.

The problem is the article “the” in front of “most likely to leave early.” The first and last items in the list don't have an article in front of them, so to keep your list parallel, you need to either remove the “the” from the middle item or put an article in front of everything.

My team won best complainers, most likely to leave early, and least likely to turn off the lights when we leave.

My team was voted the best complainers, the most likely to leave early, and the least likely to turn off the lights when we leave.

Both versions are correct. You could write it either way; the important thing is that each list item is either bare or preceded by an article.

Again, they match. You want your socks to match when you go to an interview. Make sure you get that interview by double-checking that your list items match.

Resume image from Shutterstock

Next: What Should You Capitalize on a Résumé?

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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