Presenting your credentials with style

Joe Grimm, a longtime recruiter at the Detroit Free Press who now teaches at Michigan State, recently listed common errors of AP style that he sees on journalists’ resumes.

Capitalization and abbreviations were among the violations. As Grimm pointed out, these are errors by people who say they know AP style.

Certainly, as noted here and here, mistakes on a resume or a cover letter can weaken your chances for landing a job, especially in journalism. But are the intricacies of AP style needed? To use a picayune example, are we going to disqualify a job candidate for using “persuade” when AP calls for “convince”?

Because I first heard about Grimm’s list on Twitter, I decided to ask fellow journalists there about whether AP style is essential for a resume sent to a newsroom. Here are some replies, written in Twitter style:

Gerri Berendzen, copy editor at the Quincy Herald-Whig: “Should journalist’s resume follow AP style? While it hasn’t been a deal breaker for me, I notice it. You should know audience.”

Cathy Frail, news editor at the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C.: “Correct grammar is more important than style. Once got resume from designer with no caps at all. too much focus on appearance.”

Ginger Carter Miller, professor of mass communication at Georgia College & State University: “I say yes! And I teach it that way for all mscm students.”

Jim Santori, publisher of the Mankato Free Press: “Recent dilemma: Friend sought PR job w/JSchool wondered — use academia or AP style in resume, cover letter?”

My view is that it can’t hurt to use AP style when applying for a job at a place where you will have to use it. But you shouldn’t have to worry about job recruiters marking up resumes and cover letters with red pens. Editing tests (usually given as part of an interview) will see what you really know.

The question about academic jobs is more difficult. Faculty members in journalism schools use a mix of styles, including Chicago and Bluebook, in their academic writing.

In an academic situation, any style is fine in a job application as long there’s a sense of consistency to the materials. Just don’t misspell the name of the school or the dean.

One thought on “Presenting your credentials with style

  1. Thanks for taking that JobsPage post about AP Style errors and running with it. It has been a popular one, no doubt because so many people have added to it with good suggestions like these.

    I will do more about journalism resumes.

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