Communications is key in the world of business, whether you’re applying for positions or wanting to express yourself clearly once in a role. Indeed, being a strong communicator (oral and written) is increasingly an essential requirement for positions at all levels, in all sectors.

This expert article focuses on the critical importance of strong writing with resumes. The tips are also excellent for writing in general, including with emails, reports and other business and communication documents.

The best way to get your message across simply and clearly is to use plain English or plain language. Why? It’s faster to write, faster to read and easier to absorb.

Tips

Following these tips will make a great first impression. They’ll also—and this is a big benefit—leave you more room for meaningful content.

Use short words, not long words

Never use a long word when a short one will do. Long words can sound pretentious and make you look like you’re writing more to ‘impress’ than ‘express’. Short words (no more than two syllables) are the number 1 predictor of readability.

Examples:

  • use not utilise
  • had not possessed
  • end not terminate.

Vary sentence length

Short, sharp sentences are a breeze to read. Long, convoluted sentences frustrate readers. Having said that, varying sentence length is best because it creates interest and a lovely rhythm.

Check out Gary Provost on “This sentence has five words”?

Use the least number of words possible

This lightens the reader’s load and leaves you, as writer, more space for great content.

Examples:

  • applying not in the process of applying (saves 4 words)
  • soon not in the near future (saves 3 words)
  • consider not take into consideration (saves 2 words).

Avoid slang

Put your best foot forward with business writing and avoid slang, which can make you sound disrespectful.

Examples:

  • great not cool
  • awesome not rad
  • vaccination not vaxxie.

Avoid bureaucratic languages and lofty phrases

These can leave the reader with the undesired impression that you’re verbose.

Examples:

  • discuss not hold a dialogue with
  • give not administer
  • asked not posed a question.

Delete all unnecessary words

If a word doesn’t add value delete it. Unnecessary words only clutter and weigh down your writing. They also waste reader’s time. This includes redundancies and avoid saying the same thing twice.

Example:

Original: The course included both the topic of clarity and the topic of structure.

Change to: The course included clarity and structure. [saves 8 words]

Use strong active verbs

Strong active verbs inspire readers to take notice. They add punch to your resume. Think about powerful verbs like champion, capture, drive, eliminate, forge, integrate, network, progressed, win. Sometimes an active verb is slightly longer, but that’s OK.

Examples:

  • achieve not did
  • supported not helped.

Organise information well

This means putting the most important details first, to motivate the reader to stay with you. It also means placing information in a logical order to help readers easily locate the details they need.

Proofread

Spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes send the message that you don’t pay attention to detail or can’t write, both key requirements for many positions. So proofread and proofread again. Feel free to spell (and grammar) check but be careful because these online tools don’t capture all mistakes.

Examples:

  • sing and sign
  • plague and plaque
  • check and cheque.

Did you know?

The average word in the English language is only 4.7 characters?

Messages are twice as good when they are half as long.

Readers will stay with you if, as a writer, you fill a benefit or a need.

The plain English movement began in the 1980s in Australia.

The average sentence length for clear writing is between 15 and 20 words.

Learn more about resume and cover letter writing

How to write a winning resume

Why tailored resumes are best dressed

Words to use and don’t use in your resume

Tips for writing a cracker cover letter