Proofreading Tips  
5/23/2006 9:40:37 PM

By Cynthia M Piccolo

You're heard us say over and over and over (etc.) again that you should be careful to avoid having spelling, punctuation, and/or grammatical errors in your résumé and cover letter. You've listened to our good advice, and want some proofreading tips. Here they are:

  • Take some quiet time. The phone, doorbell, TV, and iPod can wait. Do your proofreading without distractions.

  • Print for proofing. If you can, print your résumé and cover letter, rather than just reading it on your computer screen. The change will give you a fresh perspective – and give you an idea of how your formatting will look to the employer.

  • Break it into bits. To make it easier on you, break cover letters into paragraphs, and the résumé into sections, and pause briefly after each section. Don't read it all through at once, because you'll stop paying attention part way through. (See our next point!)

  • Read every word. Having cranked out a PhD thesis and a pile of articles, I know that when you read repeatedly what you've written, you start to gloss over words, paying less attention, because you "know" what's there. The problem is that you don't know what's there, and that's what you're looking for. Is the word or acronym spelled correctly? Did you use the right word (e.g. on not of, patients not patents)? Have you omitted a word in a sentence? Did you use the right number (e.g. did you work 8-hour shifts, or 80-hour shifts)?

  • Read it aloud. Things that don't stand out as unusual when you read them silently, may sound (rightfully) odd when you read them aloud. For example: "Organizing recognition and social events for our large staff, my calendar was always busy …" – did your calendar organize these events, or did you?

  • Have a dictionary available. You may not be using big words (which you shouldn't) or superlatives (which you may use, sparingly, with facts to back things up), but that doesn't mean that you know how to spell everything. To minimize risk, don't use words you don't understand. If in doubt about a word, check it – and don't rely on the computer's spell check function!

  • Don't forget format. Look for consistency in the use of italics, bold, bullets, headers, etc.

  • Let it sit for awhile. Don't expect to catch everything with one read. Go through your résumé and cover letter a second time with a fresh eye – preferably, after giving it an overnight rest.

  • Proofread with a buddy. Since you've been the one working on your résumé and cover letter, it will be more difficult for you to catch the errors. Proofread the items yourself, but have a friend or family member give it a go, too. They're also in a better position to tell you if something you've written is unclear.

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