top of page

Errors Copyeditors Cannot Leave in Their Resume

The first of a series of tips for freelancers in the ICF Facebook group was this: “Do use a functional resume”. And another thought shared was, “Why don't we treat our resumes with the same care with which we treat the documents we edit?” Nothing can emphasize more the importance of having an error-free resume. Whether you are a freelance editor or a full-time editor of any experience, maintaining an up-to-date resume is important.

This post is intended to share some of the most common errors I have seen in the last few years of my experience interviewing scores of editors for suitable openings in my teams. Recruitment of undergraduates recently out of college for trainee-level positions is not considered here. These are all editors with experience ranging from 2 to 10 years.

This first part is about how to present information, not about what to present. Read on.


First and foremost, ensure there are no spelling mistakes. Sounds naïve? Believe me, almost every resume I reviewed had a typo, or a spelling error. A resume without a spelling mistake makes my day and the candidate was always recommended. This one criterion reinforces the belief that editors need to have eye for detail.

But how do we let an embarrassing spelling error creep through the resume?

I theorize that we get carried away by our accomplishments. Reading our own resume takes us through a mix of feelings: we know what’s there, so the brain cares less about the details or we fall back into nostalgia about how we accomplished them or our mind reads what we want to read.

A crazy idea to overcome this error is to read reverse – word by word. Another good idea is to ask someone – a copyeditor – to proofread it and possibly share their feedback.


Should this be said? But there are umpteen instances in a resume that could end up being inconsistent. Pay attention to basics such as UK or US spelling and punctuation style, single or double quotes, font and size of headings and text.

If you are listing your education and experience, ensure that both are either chronological or reverse chronological. Don’t mix up, unless there is a strong reason to do so – one that can be easily recognized by the interviewer.

Use of spaces

The next point of focus is formatting the resume. I prefer to receive softcopy resumes and turn on the View All option (ctrl+shift+8) to see the use of spaces (rarely do I get resumes as a PDF file). An experienced copyeditor is expected to understand how spaces work in MS Word. Multiple spaces, tabs, and paragraph symbols show a lack of this understanding. There may be still some debate on whether there should be two spaces between sentences or one, but the majority is a single space – be it between words or sentences.

There is more than one way to align your text. A simple method is to set tab values, which ensures that any text after a tab is aligned to a pre-set value. Once you no longer need tabs, you can remove them. (Setting tabs and removing them can be done from Home > Paragraph dialog box launcher > Tabs.)

A second option is to define columns (which can be done from Layout > Page Setup). Alternatively, you can insert tables without margins, so that the printed resume will not show any margins, but the table will guide proper alignment.

Finally, instead of multiple empty paragraphs to ensure space before or after, set appropriate before and after (Home > Paragraph > Indents and Spacing).

Following these will ensure that your resume is devoid of junk spaces and communicates the message that you mean business. After all, who else knows the cost of each character if not for someone from publishing?


Underlining the text is obsolete. Except for the MLA Handbook, major style manuals recommend that underlining be used the least. Boldface, italics, and quotes each have their own roles to play. As editors, you should understand these roles and most importantly follow them. Book titles and journal names are set in italics, and article titles and chapter titles are enclosed in parentheses. Boldface is a distraction and is reserved mostly for mathematics notations. Never combine two of these formatting. Never even imagine using all three.

Yes, the interviewer will understand that you are trying to emphasize a certain point, but they also realize your lack of understanding of formatting text.

Avoid orphans and widows. Ensure that the last page is at least half-filled.


Spell check. Copyedit. Take a printout and read. As a human, you made errors; as an editor, fix them.

What are the other errors you find it difficult to accept from a copyeditor? Share your thoughts in the comments.

PC: Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

Murugaraj Shanmugam became an editorial freelancer and consultant after having resigned from 15 years of day job. In the last 9 years, he managed editorial teams, setting up language editing teams for reputable international publishers. Currently Murugaraj runs Editor’s Essentials, which specializes in niche editing, editorial consulting, and copyediting training. You may find more at


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page