Rules For Brevity

The biggest problem with bullet points on every resume I see is that each one is way too long.

Every line should be as short as possible, but with as much detail as you can muster.

This is the hardest balance to strike, and the most difficult tension to balance when editing your resume.

Staying brief is a tough job. It can be hard to know the difference between one more detail, and a ramble-on thought. Will the reader capture what I am trying to say? Will these 3 words at the end help clarify, or do they water down the point?

To assist with the balance with brevity and detail, I use the following rules:

  • Rarely exceed 15 words for any statement (bullet point).
  • Each statement you use on your resume, you must state on a single line only

The second rule can be quite controversial, so I will elaborate below.

The Single Line Rule

In my opinion, this rule is crucial to a well-organized resume. Here is why I find it useful:

  • When you map one brief clause to one line in a list,
  • The list becomes easier to comprehend,
  • And you can scan it better as well.
  • You can express via the list what ideas are important,
  • And each one stands on its own, independently,
  • Even though it might be closely related to the line above,
  • Just like this one!

The rules may seem somewhat arbitrary, or a little extreme, but I have found that they keep me honest with myself about whether or not a word is truly necessary to convey the point.

The Mantra

Reviewing each bullet, I ask myself many times over:

Can I be more specific and still be just as brief?

Throughout a revision, I routinely cycle through all bullet statements, prompting that question to myself, replacing wordy phrases with meaningful, descriptive words.

If you are clear and concise, the reader will understand your points more easily and will likely appreciate the directness.

A short and to-the-point line often sounds more deliberate, and therefore, more professional. After reading just a few of these concise lines, a theme will emerge on the page: you mean business.

© 2020 Ryan Prinz