Resume Tip — Limit Sentence Length to Increase Effectiveness

Here is one of my favorite resume tips:

To improve the effectiveness of your resume, limit the length of each sentence to 25 words or less.

Implementation

To count the length of a sentence in Microsoft Word, highlight the sentence and then click on Tools/Word Count.

If your sentence exceeds 25 words:

  1. Simplify it.
  2. Break it up into two or more sentences.

Example

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.

Simplification Option

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 here about how to write “million” on your resume.)

Multi-Sentence Option

I re-wrote the example above as a longer story told in several short sentences:

Designed and launched a Global Health Policy program to develop world-class health policy professionals for governmental roles in developing nations. Raised $2+ million in funding. Selected, mentored, and managed first class of Fellows, 75% of whom met or exceeded their professional development goals.

Summary

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 contact me below or learn more about to hire the best resume writer for you here.

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I write executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Save time. Look good. Get hired. Contact me here.
Learn more about how to hire a resume writer here.

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Updated October 2018
Image: Fotolia/bellakadife

© 2010 – 2018, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Let's Connect:

Comments 9

  1. Nice post Donna! As an ex-newspaper editor, I know the value of simpler and briefer. I like the multi-sentence option if the writer is addressing a huge accomplishment (such as your example) that can boost his or her chances at landing a particular job.

  2. Donna, this is a nifty guideline. Did you know that journalists are trained to write the lead sentence in 25 words or less? I distinctly remember being taught this in a journalism class I took in college. Ernest Hemingway was a journalist early in his life and his terse writing style is a reflection of his experience in that discipline.

  3. Rick and Ed,

    I’m always amazed at how much my writing improves when I apply this rule. Thank you for the journalistic affirmations!

    Cheers,

    Donna

  4. Donna, Short sentences like this are so much more readable, especially when surrounded by a nice cushion of white space. As a recruiter, I scan first, then read if there is enough interest. Too many people clog their resume with way too many words, which makes it harder to pull out what is essential. Your suggestion of 25 words or less is great for getting at the essentials.

    Lisa

  5. Hi Karalyn,

    I agree about Twitter. It’s an incredible learning tool in so many ways. Tweet much and you will become a clearer, more succinct writer because Twitter limits you to 140 characters.

    Hope you’ve had a great Saturday Down Under dear friend!

    Donna

  6. I agree with this technique. Concise communication seems to be a challenge for most DIY resume writers.

    One possible reason is that there are certain resources out there telling people to create and fill their resumes with problem, action, result (PAR) statements. While these (PARs, CARs, STARs, etc.) can be useful for people to think through and practice articulating their key accomplishments, the literal interpretation doesn’t necessarily translate well to powerful resume content.

    Typically, I don’t count words, but do believe most bullet points can and should be one line. If a few extend to two lines, that is OK. Beyond that it usually makes sense to break the complex concept down to keep the description brief and balanced.

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