One question that many resume writers (professinal or DIY-ers) ask is how to deal with abbreviations and acronyms. It’s often tempting to abbreviate and use those acronyms as often as possible, since resumes should never be longer than two pages. And since you obviously want to pack as much relevant info as possible into those two pages, why not shorten as many words and phrases as possible?
Well, there’s good news and bad news on that front. The good news is that you can abbreviate and use acronyms where appropriate. The bad news is that you need to be careful about what you shorten and ensure that everything is clear to the reader.
The Litmus Test for Abbreviations and Acronyms
When you’re deciding whether to use specific abbreviations and acronyms, there’s a simple test that you can use. Ask yourself whether the shortened version will still be clear–or confusing to the reader. With abbreviations, that decision is usually simple. If you use the standard abbreviation, there should be no problem. Acronyms can be more difficult, however, since so many acronyms have multiple meanings. However, even that can be overcome if you use them correctly.
You will likely want to use some abbreviations and acronyms. After all, you need to leave as much room in your resume as possible for skills, experience, and achievements. Long words and lengthy titles or organizational names could take up space that might be better used to document your value as an employee. We’ve compiled some tips that can help you to properly use abbreviations and acronyms.
Tips for Using Abbreviations Properly, with Examples
First, strive for clarity. If an abbreviation could be misinterpreted, spell out the word instead. For example, words like million and billion should always be spelled out in their entirety. That’s because the “M” and “B” – or “Bn” abbreviations can either be misunderstood or unrecognized. On the other hand, another unit of measure – “thousand” – is almost always abbreviated when preceded by a numerical value. So, you would write “7k” instead of “7 thousand.”
Examples of other acceptable abbreviations:
- For the word “management” use the abbreviation “mgmt.” or spell out the entire word.
- Abbreviate months using the first three letters of the month’s name. Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, and so on. Be consistent.
- You can also abbreviate degrees in your education section. Use MBA for a Master of Business Administration, PhD for your Doctor of Philosophy, and other common degree abbreviations like MD, BA, etc.
You can also use less-common abbreviations, but only if you first list the full name so that readers can learn the reference. Make clarity your overriding concern. If there’s any doubt about whether the reader will understand an abbreviation, spell the word out instead.
Tips for Using Acronyms Properly, with Examples
The rules for using abbreviations and acronyms in a resume are similar. Like abbreviations, acronyms need to be properly understood by your reader. These simple tips can help you better manage your acronym usage in any resume or cover letter:
- You should use your acronym in its complete word form prior to shortening it. For example, if you were listing a government position in the defense department, you might not want to write out Department of Defense every time you reference that job. But you should spell that name out the first time you mention it. Each subsequent appearance can use the acronym “DoD” instead.
- Think about the applicant tracking system when you’re making your decisions. If the acronym is a shortened version of terms used in the job description, use the full version instead. You must make sure that those keywords are properly included in your resume.
- Do not use apostrophes when you’re using an acronym’s plural form. If you worked as a physical therapist, you could use the acronym “PT” and any other physical therapists in your circle would be “PTs” – the plural form. You should only add an apostrophe to signify the possessive form of the acronym.
- Never repeat a word that makes up part of the acronym if it leads to repetition. Customer management services might be referred to as CMS, but they should never be referred to as CMS services, since “services” is already part of the acronym.
- Always capitalize acronyms. That does not mean that the words that make up the acronym always need to be capitalized as well.
- Do your homework. There’s nothing worse than using the wrong acronym in a resume. It’s not only confusing, but makes you look unprofessional as well.
Use abbreviations with care. Abbreviations and acronyms can be a useful way to save space for skills and achievements. By shortening those long words, titles, and organizational names, you can reserve more of your resume for those important priorities. However, you must always think through the process and use these shortened terms the right way.