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Friday, April 13, 2007
What’s in a Word?
I imagine Don Imus could answer that question pretty well right now. Badly chosen words resulted in a career downfall for him. While I’m hopeful that those of you reading this don’t suffer from the same foot-in-mouth disease, it does serve as a good example of how choosing words carefully can affect your career path. No where is that more true than in your resume.

Most people don’t consider the wording of their resume. Most just sit down and write down what they do – “Managed team of six”, “Designed reports based on quarterly data”, “Supervised programs and plans”. Then you have the small minority that go far overboard on their wording and border on the comical – “Rose above circumstances to rescue failing program from fatal tailspin.”

Choosing the right wording is so important in resume writing. Good writing is clear, powerful and succinct. Good writing doesn’t have to involve flowery phrasing, three-dollar words, or complex compound sentences with highly technical data. In fact, those three writing styles will significantly hurt your candidacy.

The worst problem is the fluff writing or flowery phrases. For some reason, some people seem to think the more adjectives they throw into their resume the better. “Aggressive, self-motivated, enthusiastic, and upstanding senior professional…” is a common offender. That is five adjectives strung together to modify a vague noun that tells the reader nothing. “Senior professional” could be anything from Donald Trump to the manager of the local drive-in.

Fluff writing and over-writing are both signs of poor writing. Some people are just poor writers just as some people are poor at math. Unfortunately, good writing is more in demand in our society than good math skills. We have calculators and spreadsheets for math but Word doesn’t do much with sentence construction. Word won’t tell you when you are coming across too low-level or you sound like you are making things up to fill up page space. Word doesn’t tell you when you are writing in passive voice or when you have created a data dump instead of a resume.

Fortunately, there are some really good writers out there who can help you. Now, if I could only figure out my taxes….

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