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The resumé, every which way: Show, don’t tell

The resumé, every which way: Show, don’t tell

In earlier posts I talked about some fairly basic points to keep in mind when applying for editing work, and I offered some advice on how to position yourself on a resumé as an editor. Today, I’d like to talk about some typical errors people make concerning the language and content in their resumés. These are pervasive issues that don’t just apply to editors, but as language experts, editors should avoid them.

Adjective overkill

Hardworking, energetic, motivated, highly skilled, detail oriented, proficient, passionate, professional, outgoing, personable… . These are on the laundry list of adjectives peppering most resumés. It’s a problem because these adjectives tell, not show. By this I mean everyone can say these things about themselves, and they may very well be true, but you need to provide the evidence to back it up. That’s where the show part comes in. Admittedly, this is easier said than done, especially in our field. How do we show people the painstaking, quiet, veiled work we do? After all, our work is mostly invisible, and it’s hard to show anyone how many errors in logic, meaning, grammar, etc. we’ve eliminated or how transformative our work can be to a piece of text, whether it be on a billboard or in a thousand-page scholarly tome.

The first thing to do is to think in terms of verbs instead of adjectives. Use terms like clarified, parsed, organized, queried, resolved, distilled, researched, revised, improved, analyzed, evaluated, eliminated, negotiated, rewrote, reworded, communicated, recommended, flagged, corrected, fact-checked, managed… . You get the idea. Think long and hard about all the editing work that you’ve done. Chances are you’re overlooking a lot of the tasks, skills, and actions you perform while working. Verbs show what you’re able to do for the employer. Listing a bunch of presupposed qualities is not a good idea, that is, it goes without saying that you are hardworking and reliable; if you weren’t, chances are you wouldn’t be applying for the job—you’d be on your sofa, in your underwear, staring deeply into an empty bag of Cheetos. (more…)