Would you show up to an interview wearing a brand new suit with tattered old running shoes? Of course not! When we neglect to edit our resume grammar and cover letter for correct punctuation, it can give a potential employer the impression that we do not pay attention to little details, and that can be a very big deal. Sloppy punctuation can cause your letter and resume to be tossed in the trash without follow-up, leaving you to wonder what happened.

Resume Grammar

Did you know that a simple comma can make the difference between a lovely holiday dinner and the descent into cannibalism? It’s true. Consider: “Let’s eat, Grandma!” Vs: “Let’s eat Grandma!” Please don’t forget that little comma. It really does make a big difference. It made quite a difference in this labor dispute lawsuit regarding overtime pay. Should you use the Oxford comma in your resume or stick with standard American usage? Not everyone is a fan of the Oxford comma, but it can help to clear up ambiguity in lists, as we see in that linked legal case. But whatever you decide, be consistent throughout your resume and cover letter. Finally, if you’re not sure about the difference between a cat and a comma, here’s a helpful reminder: a cat has claws at the end of his paws, while a comma is a pause at the end of a clause. Always give your writing a final proof for missing commas, comma splices, and other punctuation errors.


What about the semicolon? Semicolons are often used incorrectly. Do not simply toss one in to replace a comma; they have a specific purpose. See what I did there? Semicolons link two complete sentences that could stand on their own but form a balanced dynamic together. You can also use them in lists when the items are complex, as follows: I am working on my resume, cover letter, and contact list; updating my wardrobe and hairstyle; and making sure to bookmark Resume Advisor. Don’t use exclamation points in resumes and avoid them in cover letters too.


Your writing should be crisp and professional, and while your qualifications should be interesting to a potential employer. However, putting an exclamation point is not necessary. Should you ask for follow-up with a question or simply state that you hope to hear back? That’s a matter of style you can discuss with your Resume Advisor. Although in general, it’s preferable to end your cover letter with a confident and direct message along these lines: “I am very interested in your company and am looking forward to discussing this position with you in more detail. Please contact me to arrange a phone or in-person interview at your convenience.” There are many online resume grammar guides you can check for usage questions if you are unsure of a punctuation issue. It’s better to take that extra minute and look up a question than get it wrong and appear unprofessional in your writing. Even when you’re sending that follow-up email to your initial inquiry or interview, take a minute to proofread before sending. Keep those shoes shined!

Authored by: Paula Light

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