Writers and Resumes

Subject: Writers and Resumes
From: Documania <dcma -at- MAIL1 -dot- NAI -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 1997 18:20:22 -0500

I find it interesting to see, over many postings by many people, how
expectation of a "clean" resume from a professional writer came to be
perceived by some as an obsession with dotting all the i's and crossing all
the t's.

Some folks have also emphasized how much time it takes to make a document
grammatically perfect, etc. To this I counter, When you know your grammar,
spelling, and punctuation, it takes no time at all. Correct usage flows out
as easily as does knowledge about programming or turbines or biochemistry
or plumbing.

I expect a professional writer to have that knowledge, as well as the
ability to generate ideas, to collect information, to assimilate it, then
compose it into a product comprehensible to a designated audience. An
engineer or a plumber a writer works with should be able to walk up to
him/her and ask, "How do you spell gizmothingy?" Likewise, the writer
should be able to walk up to an engineer or a plumber and say, "What size
thingamabob should I use to fix a doohickey?"

Just as I expect a professional writer to have all of the above abilities,
I expect a professional editor to have the language tools but necessarily
the other intellectual skills and/or training and/or knowledge of a
particular subject. This is why, in my opinion, a writer should earn more
than a copyeditor. The copyeditor is there to catch what the writer missed
due to the number of variables the writer has to incorporate. And in
organizations that employ a proofreader, that person catches what the
others have missed. The fact that all three professions exist should make
it clear that no one expects perfection 100% of the time.

When you are equipped with language knowledge, you write essentially clean
drafts _without thinking about it_, then have the skill to identify and
correct boo-boos while you attend to the content and composition part of
your document. In the case of resumes, as we have discussed, a two-page
marketing tool should reflect your knowledge and expertise to their highest

Where did people get the idea that content quality and mastery of writing
tools are mutually exclusive? As writers without editorial backup have
pointed out, when there's no one to check you, you need to do a really good
job by yourself. And as other writers facing intense deadlines have pointed
out, there isn't always time to have an obsessed editorial type crawl
through a document and make it perfect. Therefore, the onus is on YOU to
dot all the i's and cross all the t's. A writer should be capable of doing

In the commercial world, we have to make allowance for circumstances, such
as deadlines and management direction and politics and faulty tools. But
how many people put their resumes together at gunpoint? What prevents them
from exercising all the known quality controls available to make sure the
document is "perfect" before sending it to a potential employer? Doesn't
every writer get embarrassed by typos? As many submitted anecdotes have
shown, minor typos don't always mean you won't get the job, so you won't
roast in hell if you make a mistake. (In fact, your reaction to a
pointed-out mistake could be what wins you the job!) But what about pride?
Don't you owe it to yourself and your potential employer to do your
absolute damnedest to produce a perfect two-page document, when you have
all the luxuries not available in the workplace on your side?

Finally, I've never understood why "content" is more important than grammar
and spelling. Some misspellings can be catastrophic (especially in
chemistry), as can poorly constructed sentences that might direct a user
consulting a manual to do a wrong or dangerous thing. And why is any
technical subject inherently more important than language? A lousy program
is a lousy program, just as a poorly built engine is a poorly built engine,
and a sloppy document is a sloppy document. It astounds me that people
calling themselves professional writers can have such disdain for the tools
of their trade.

Carolyn Haley
dcma -at- ct1 -dot- nai -dot- net

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