Properly punctuating a dental hygiene resume may not seem important, but it really does make a difference in a tight job market like dental hygiene.
Punctuation marks are like mini road signs. Without them, sentences and statements don’t always make sense or can be understood differently. Obviously, the last thing you would want is to confuse a potential employer. This can cause them to make assumptions about your attention to detail, communication skills, and even work ethic.
Here’s eight of the most common problem areas I see when reviewing dental hygiene client resumes and cover letters:
When you are offering up a complete sentence, such as in your opening statement (sometimes called “Objective” or “About Me“), always include periods where appropriate.
But when it comes to listing skills and competencies on your resume, most writing experts agree that since they are not complete sentences, periods are optional. So I usually leave them off for aesthetic reasons.
Use hyphens for compound adjectives that precede a noun, such as “patient-focused approach” or “part-time opening.” And if you have two adjectives that modify the same base word, use a hyphen after the first, as in “double- and single-patient rotations.” Do not use a hyphen in a compound adjective if the first word ends in –ly, as in “highly qualified candidate.”
Semicolons can either separate two independent clauses when the second clause is not directly related to the first or they can be useful when you want to list items that already include a comma.
For example, “Proficient at oral assessments, screenings, and treatment planning; educating patients on proper oral care; and scheduling patients for recall.”
Colons are used to join two independent clauses when the second clause is directly related to the first. The most common way to use a colon is for introducing a list, as in “I’m great at a lot of things, but I’m particularly skilled at basic dental hygiene protocol: oral assessments, screenings, and treatment planning.”
Commas are important visuals to help a reader understand the context of what you are writing, particularly when making lists. One of the most common questions is, “Should I put a comma between the last two listed items?” If you are a journalist, no. But in business writing (including resumes) you should add that extra comma. For example, “Proficient at oral assessments, screenings, and treatment planning.”
But also remember that commas are important visuals that help readers understand what you mean. Check out how the meaning of these two sentences changes by adding two commas.
- “I love scaling my patients and my office.”
- “I love scaling, my patients, and my office.”
Apostrophes trip up a lot of my clients. There are many rules and sub-rules on them, but I will just touch on three basic rules as these are far more common:
- Use them to show possession (singular and plural): “patient’s x-rays” or “hygienists’ tools”
- Use them in contractions (to replace letters): “doesn’t” instead of “does not” or “it’s” instead of “it is”
- Optional to use them with initials: RDH’s or RDHs and DDSs’ or DDSs
This is interesting! Not!
Exclamation points are popular in informal writing and can add some meaning in literature, but there’s really no place for them in resumes and cover letters – anywhere! So leave them off!
Testimonial sheets, on the other hand, often include quotes from people that know you and it’s perfectly fine to leave them in as they help convey a certain level of enthusiasm for you.
These are useful in a couple ways on resumes. First, they further define or giving specifics to what you mean in bullet-ed statements. For example, “Proficient at taking radiographs (both traditional and digital).”
Similarly, both parenthesis, dashes (and bold or italics, too) can be helpful in setting information apart or providing additional details. For example, “All Smiles Dental – Dr. Pat Smiles (Albany, NY) – Dental Hygienist 2001 – 2008″
There are lots of other marks available to you, ellipses, ampersands, n-dashes and m-dashes, quotes, slashes, brackets, asterisks and, of course, question marks. But these are seldom, if ever, used on a resume and cover letter.
If you decide to use them, just be sure you fully understand their rules and are using them consistently. For example, if you use an “and” in one sentence don’t turn around and use an “&” in the next one – that’s another common mistake made on resumes.