Many, many people who hire me to write their resumes say they have difficulty writing. The words just don’t seem to occur to them in writing like they do in speech. They start worrying they are doing something wrong, and the words just dry up. Considering how challenging a resume is to write, they don’t want to make big mistakes on this most important document.
I’ve been a writer for a lot of years, having written in all kinds of genres besides resumes, including poetry, song lyrics, speeches, columns, news stories and features, marketing pieces, Web content, and reports to boards. I’ve also taught writing at the high school and college level.
The ironic thing about learning to write well is that the activity that will improve your writing the most is reading. Yes, even more than writing practice, reading well-written materials will improve your writing.
Decades of research have shown that the best writers are voracious readers. They start young and form habits early. They read good writing and absorb it until it becomes their own.
I was one of those kids. In the summertime, you’d most likely find me in my room, on the back porch, or in a tree – reading. I loved writing poetry and song lyrics as a teenager. When it came time to choose a profession, writing seemed like an obvious choice.
Even if it is not your profession, writing is a crucial way we present ourselves to the world. If you never write anything other than a management report or a Sunday School lesson, you still want your writing to be clear so that it is understood by others.
Reading remains the sure-fire way to improve your writing, so be sure to start there. Here are some additional ways to improve your writing:
- Improve your spelling: If you find English spelling challenging (and who doesn’t?), you can take a course, use an app, or play a game. You can also join my husband and me in our occasional take-no-prisoners Scrabble Battle. (Bring armor or bandages. We take this very seriously.)
- Learn more words: An extensive vocabulary at your command will help you express yourself more easily. Several sites offer vocabulary building programs and games.
- Tackle your grammar: Finally learn those grammar rules that will help you write well consistently. A good print resource is Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Online, check out Grammar Girl.
- In the meantime, use Microsoft Word’s grammar checker. It doesn’t work well on resumes that have few full sentences, but you can use it on other types of writing to help you catch your mistakes.
- Practice: Write as much as you can, remembering that even professional writers – especially professional writers – revise. Use an outline to organize your thoughts. If you can’t think of anything to write, write “I can’t think of anything to write.” Keep writing it until something else occurs to you. Yes, it will. Let your draft sit several hours or overnight before revising it.
- Find a mentor: Chances are there is someone at work, at church, in your neighborhood, or among your friends who is a good writer. Ask them to review your writing with you and make suggestions for improvement.
- Take a course: Free writing courses are available from some colleges and universities.
If you don’t have the time to improve your writing before you need a resume, contact me today. I usually have a waiting list of about two weeks.
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