Tips for Correct Capitalization on your Resume and Cover Letter

cA cover letter and resume should draw attention to your skills and qualifications, not detract from them with randomly capitalized words.

Imagine if You received a Cover Letter written like This. Reading this is like riding a Roller Coaster. By the time you get to the End of the Letter, you would be thinking Twice about bringing that person in for an Interview.

There are rules for capitalization. Resumes and cover letters that follow the rules correctly are easier to read and allow the reader to focus on the candidate’s experiences and qualifications, not their understanding of grammar or punctuation. The basic capitalization rules are:

  • Capitalize the first word of a sentence. Even short sentences. When writing in bullet points, such as in a resume, capitalize the first word of each bullet point.
  • Capitalize proper nouns – names of people, cities, places where you have specific references. If you worked at the White House, capitalize it. If you live in a white house, leave it lowercase.
  • Capitalize the first and last words – and any significant words in between – for titles of books, movies, magazine articles (oh, and blogs too!).
  • Always capitalize the pronoun I.

These rules are easy to apply to general writing, but writing about work experience, job titles and company names is a little trickier.

  • Company names – these fall under the proper noun rule above and should be capitalized. If you have any doubts, check the company’s website to see how they refer to themselves online, in press releases, etc.
  • Job titles in resumes – capitalize job titles when they serve as headers for sections of your resume.Resume
  •  Job titles in cover letters – references to specific job titles should be capitalized; however, references to general job titles should not be capitalized.
    • Specific: “As the Director of Human Resources for ABC Company…”
    • General: “I am seeking a director of human resources position…”
  • Work experiences – in most situations, these are not capitalized, unless they include acronyms or proper nouns, such as product names or certifications.
    • Example: “Implemented Career Builder software across a global organization…” where Career Builder is the name of the software.
    • Example: “Implemented talent management software…”where the reference is to a type of software and not a specific product.

And it goes without saying, NEVER WRITE IN ALL CAPS, which is commonly interpreted by most people these days as SHOUTING.

I am a strong advocate for proofreading. Two good proofreading reminders to ensure you are following the rules of capitalization correctly are 1) make sure the first letter of every sentence or bullet point is capitalized, and 2) review any capitalized letters that fall in the middle of a sentence. If they are not for a proper noun, chances are they do not need to be capitalized!

More capitalization rules can be found on the following grammar sites. Happy writing! The Guide to Grammar and Writing, sponsored by the Capital Community College Foundation (Hartford, CT). Your Dictionary Grammar: 10 Rules of Capitalization

Heather Nelson is a partner with PeopleResults, a consultancy that guides organizations and individuals to “start the wave” of change. Heather and the team have advised major clients including PepsiCo, McKesson, Microsoft, Frito-Lay, Hitachi Consulting and many others on how to realize results through people. Contact her at hnelson@people-results.com.

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