3 Rules For Capitalization on Resumes
I wrote a post a few months ago about “What To Capitalize on a Resume,” but from the number of emails I receive it’s obvious I didn’t go into enough detail. In this post, I’ll cover a few of the rules for capitalization, and we’ll go into more detail on each of them. These are the questions I get most often:
• Do you capitalize the name of majors in college? • Do you capitalize the first word of a bullet point? • Do you capitalize job titles?
Let’s tackle these one at a time.
Do You Capitalize the Name of a Degree Program?
Whenever you deal with capitalization there is a lot of confusion—even among the different style guides—which means you can make this a simple, or complicated, learning experience. I prefer simple. On several important points the guides agree.
- You should capitalize the abbreviations of academic degrees. CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style) recommends no periods between the letters (BA, BS, MA, PhD), and AP (Associated Press) prefers a period between the letters (B.S., M.S., Ph.D.)
- You should capitalize the name of the degree program only if it is a proper noun (English, Spanish, German), otherwise keep it lowercase.
Most experts agree that it is fine to capitalize the degree on your resume but only where you list it as your degree. In other words, it’s okay to do this:
University of Georgia, Athens, GA BS in Economics
But if you use it in a cover letter, you’d say:
I have a bachelor’s degree in economics, and a master’s degree in Spanish.
Do You Capitalize the First Word of a Bullet Point?
The standard is that text which precedes a bullet point should end with a colon. If the text in the bullet is not a complete sentence it doesn’t require a capital letter or a period. With that said, and for the sake of keeping things simple, I suggest beginning all bullet points with a capital letter and ending them with a period. The following is an example of how I suggest you do it, regardless of the rules. As a director of sales achieved a record number of accomplishments:
- Increased sales by 20%.
- Brought in record number of new clients.
- Launched three new products in six months.
Nobody will complain if you manage your bullet points in this fashion, and it will be consistent, which might be more important than following rules that many people don’t even know about. That brings us to one of the most frequently asked questions
Do You Capitalize Job Titles?
Job titles might be the trickiest part of capitalization on resumes. Everybody thinks their job should be capitalized—and why not—it’s about them. But in the real world that’s not how it works. So, in an attempt to shed light on this mess, here we go:
- Capitalize your title when it’s used as a heading in your resume.
- Ex: Director of Sales (2004–Present)
- Capitalize a title if it precedes a person’s name and is part of the name, as in
- “Vice President of Marketing John Doe.”
- Do not capitalize your title if referring to it in text.
- Ex: “As director of sales, brought in six new accounts in three months.”
- Do not capitalize a title if it follows a name, as in
- “John Doe, vice president of marketing.” [Or if the title is preceded by ‘the’… as in “the vice president of marketing, John Doe…”
- Do not capitalize job titles when referring to them in summaries or objectives or general text.
- Ex: “Worked as a director of quality, manager of operations, and general manager for Fortune 500 companies in the automotive sector.”
Some of the worst problems arise when people include summaries. Here is an example of a real one.
Significant global management experience in critical business disciplines including:
|Global Commercial Business & Portfolio Management||Business Development & Corporate Partnerships||Acquisition, Due Diligence & Organizational Integration|
|Scientific Products Sales & Marketing Management||New Technology & Innovation Assessment||P&L Management, Financial Planning & Analysis|
|Brand & Product Development, Global Commercialization||Strategic Planning & Investor Relations||Team & Personnel Development, Mentoring|
Out of all of the nonsense above, and forgetting the fact that it is for the purpose of keyword stuffing (to be discussed later), nothing but the first word of each “bullet point” should be capitalized.
I understand that all of this can be confusing. It baffles the hell out of me at times, and for good reason. I think resumes might have more capitalization problems than all other documents with the exception of the legal department. That is all the more reason why you should get a firm grasp on how to do it, and then make sure you do it right. I only covered three points today for a reason. It’s difficult to learn too much at once. We’ll get into some of the other rules in future posts. (Make sure you sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss the next installments.) In the future we’ll cover the very tricky rules for departments, industries, acronyms, product mentions, seasons, and many more.
Writing a perfect resume is not an easy job, but it’s the surest way to get an interview. Gatekeepers take note of the little things when they screen resumes, and proper (or improper) capitalization is one of the things they notice. It can make the difference between being called in for the job of your dreams, or having your resume tossed in the trash. You decide which it will be. It’s your decision.
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Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”
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