How many words should be in a sentence?
Can you make your resume easier to read, and improve your readers’ experience, by writing shorter sentences?
Words in a Sentence — Rule of Thumb
Here’s my rule of thumb:
To improve the effectiveness of your resume, limit the length of each sentence to 25 words or less.
How to Count the Number of Words in a Sentence
To count the length of a sentence in Microsoft Word, highlight the sentence and then click on Tools/Word Count.
How to Fix Run-On Sentences
If your sentence exceeds 25 words:
- Simplify it.
- Break it up into two or more sentences.
I pulled this 28-word sentence out of a resume in my files:
Established and led a strong global program in health policy, set direction and strategy, raised over $2.0 million in funding, led major activities, hired, mentored and managed staff.
Option 1: Simplify It
I re-wrote the example above as this shorter, simpler sentence:
Developed and implemented strategy for a new, 12-person global health policy program that attracted $2+ million of funding in its first year.
(BTW, see more about how to write “million” on your resume here.)
Option 2: Break It Up
Next, I re-wrote the example as a longer story told in several short sentences:
Designed and launched a global program to develop world-class health policy professionals for governmental roles in developing nations. Raised $2+ million of funding. Selected, mentored, and managed first cohort of Fellows, 85% of whom met or exceeded their professional development goals.
As you can see, you can use your resume to tell a short, simple story or a longer (no more than three lines of text) story about what you have accomplished.
In either case, your story is easier to understand and has more impact when you tell it with short sentences.
If this seems like too much work, hire a resume writer. You can learn more about to hire the best resume writer for you here.
Updated February 2019
© 2010 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, writes all of AvidCareerist’s posts. She has written for and been quoted by leading business, general, and career media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, Ask.com, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, Payscale, Business News Daily, and the Muse. Let her background and experience inform your job search strategy and decision making.