Punctuation is the most inconspicuous but also most error-prone part in resume writing. Whether or not you can use punctuation correctly and standardized reflects the job seeker's attitude to apply for the job.

The correct and standardized use of punctuation may look easy, but it is not as simple as it seems. The main reason is that different language environments either do not have a clear specification for the use of punctuation, or have a specification but many places are not clearly defined, or there are several sets of style guides (opens in a new tab) but they are incompatible or even conflicting with each other; and secondly, the actual typesetting often encounters the situation of multi-language mixing, and then the problem will become even more complicated. This guide tries to summarize some general rules for the use of punctuation for your reference.

  • MUST, adding one space after commas, periods, semicolons, colons, exclamation marks and question marks
  • MUST, adding one space before an open bracket and after a closed bracket, same as a word, but no space after a closed bracket followed by a comma
  • RECOMMEND, adding one space between a number and its unit
  • RECOMMEND, not adding spaces around a hyphen, sometimes necessary to fine-tune the letter-spacing
  • RECOMMEND, not adding spaces around a slash which locates two parallel things like "A or B"
  • RECOMMEND, using quotation marks (), instead of apostrophes (opens in a new tab)
  • SHOULD NOT, adding any punctuation mark at the end of items in a Bullet list (opens in a new tab)
  • MUST NOT, hanging a punctuation mark at the start of a line, which can be avoided by software's automatic settings or manual adjustment

Connective mark

Hyphen (-), en-dash (–), and em-dash (—) are three punctuation marks that can be easily confused and lead to errors. The usage of them is described below.

for a hyphen, type a hyphen (-);

for an en-dash, type two hyphens (--);

for an em-dash, type three hyphens (---);

for a minus sign, type a hyphen in mathematics mode ($-$).

— Donald Knuth, The TeXBook (opens in a new tab)

Hyphen (-)

The hyphen is used primarily for:

  • compound words such as "upper-case letter"
  • separating numbers or characters, such as telephone numbers, "1-888-777-666"
  • hyphenating the word at the end of a line to keep the whole layout neat

There are a few rules about hyphenation at the end of a line:

  • try not to hyphenate the last word in more than three continuous lines
  • avoid dividing proper nouns, personal names, etc.
  • avoid cross-page hyphenation
  • segment words according to syllables in principle, however the position to hyphenate varies with words, so it's better to check dictionaries if necessary1

En-dash (–)

The length of an en-dash equals the width of uppercase "N", and is half of the length of an em-dash. It's mainly used for:

  • indicating a range of numbers, date time, etc. such as dates in a year, "July–August 1968"
  • indicating the start and end points of the navigation path, such as "Boston–Hartford route"

When using an en-dash, it is generally not necessary to add spaces around it.

Em-dash (—)

The length of an em-dash equals the width of uppercase "M", and its usage is the most flexible and complex. It is usually used for:

  • explaining something in details, equivalent to parentheses or colons
  • segmenting declarative clauses
  • indicating that the conversation is interrupted, in which case an ellipsis may also be used

In addition, there are situations where two or three em-dashes are joined together, but I won't go into details here.2.


  1. Professional typesetting software generally have automatic hyphenating function, to some extents it can locate the position for hyphenation if turned on, but it's best to artificially check again.

  2. Wikipedia/Dash (opens in a new tab) demonstrates detailed usage of this symbol and the input methods of it on different operating systems.