The Elements of Style & The Secret to Writing Well

The cardinal rule of good writing is to keep it simple, direct, and concise. In what have been called the “63 words that could change the world,” the late great William Strunk, professor of English at Cornell University, said it all:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. (William Strunk Jr., and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, 3rd ed., New York: Macmillan, 1979, p 23)

As a writer I have gone back to this paragraph many times. When you draft a resume and cover letter, I recommend that you ask yourself repeatedly: “What am I telling busy HR directors who are eager to make a dent in pile of resumes?” If the answer is nothing, or more than they care to know, or less than they need to know about how your abilities may benefit them, then edit your material accordingly until you get it right.

~ Anne Follis, Certified Professional Resume Writer

© Copyright 2011, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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