Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Alternative Spellings: How Do You Know Which Version to Use in Your Resume

There are several words that come to mind that have multiple spellings and put a writer in a conundrum as to which to use.  The words I come across most frequently in resume writing are: healthcare / health care, website / web site, Internet / internet, email / e-mail / E-mail, ecommerce / e-commerce / E-commerce.  If I pondered it long enough, I am sure I could come up with more but these are the the most frequent words with this alternative spelling.

The version you choose to use is almost a personal preference though I will site reasons for using either in just a minute.  The most important aspect of these variable spellings is that you maintain strict consistency in your writing.  If you use the form healthcare in one spot on your resume, you must continue to use the variation healthcare throughout the entire document. When a client has a preference, I simply defer to their opinion in most cases.  Though of course I have my own preferences as well which - like it or not - I will share at the end of this article.

So for the common list of words mentioned  in the first paragraph, which are most appropriate to use?

  • healthcare versus health care: The two-word rule for “health care” is followed by major news organizations (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal) and medical journals (New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine). Their decision seems consistent with the way most references to the word “care” are handled.   Most importantly of all, the Associated Press decrees that the correct usage is, “health care.” That decision is not substantive – there is absolutely no definitional difference between “health care” and “healthcare,” despite what you might read elsewhere -- but stylistic.(1)  AARP uses "health care" in their online articles about health care reform. My web browser spell check finds the one-word version as a misspelling.  As a professional resume writer, I tend to take my cues from industry standards and the AP so hence forth I deem health care to be my preferred version.
  • website versus web site: Wikipedia lists it as "WEBSITE (also spelled as web site)" and uses the spelling website throughout the article (3) while the Merriam-Webster style guide shows the correct spelling as two words (4) . However, the AP Style Guide (5) lists website as one word. (I was very pleased to read today in this post on Poynter Online that the Associated Press Stylebook 2010 edition changes it from the two word version to the standard and now preferred one word. (6)

  • Internet versus internet: The term the Internet, when referring to the entire global system of IP networks, has traditionally been treated as a proper noun and written with an initial capital letter. In the media and popular culture a trend has developed to regard it as a generic term or common noun and thus write it as "the internet", without capitalization. (2)  I totally understand all the aforementioned information, however, my preference is to NOT capitalize internet.  It is not a proper noun in my mind (the name of a person for example).  It is a complex computer networking system which should not be capitalized when referring to it in the general sense.

  • email versus e-mail or E-mail: According to Merriam-Webster: E–mail (with a capital E when used as a noun) and e–mail (with a lowercase e when used as a verb) (7) According to an article on Wikipedia, there are several spelling variations:
    1.      email is the form required by IETF Requests for Comment and working groups and increasingly by style guides. This spelling also appears in most dictionaries.
    2.      e-mail is a form recommended by some prominent journalistic and technical style guides. According to Corpus of Contemporary American English data, this form appears most frequently in edited, published American English writing.
    3.      mail was the form used in the original RFC. The service is referred to as mail and a single piece of electronic mail is called a message.
    4.      eMail, capitalizing only the letter M, was common among ARPANET users and the early developers of Unix, CMS, AppleLink, eWorld, AOL, GEnie, and Hotmail.
    5.      EMail is a traditional form that has been used in RFCs for the "Author's Address",and is expressly required "...for historical reasons...".
    6.      E-mail, capitalizing the initial letter E in the same way as A-bomb, H-bomb, X-ray, T-shirt, and similar shortenings.(8)
    The Oxford Dictionary states that Email can also be spelled e-mail, with a hyphen; the spelling with the hyphen is now less common. (9)  My preference?  I prefer the simple email when including the word in a resume or cover letter.
So there you have it.  My personal opinion along with some arguments for or against some commonly used word variations.  I have included the reference sources in the footnotes below.  The most important thing to remember with these words is to adhere to the industry standard in which your resume is categorized and to maintain stringent consistency throughout your resume package.    

I would love to hear your comments on the debate, so please feel free to add a comment to this article.  Thanks so much! 

Ramsey Penegar is an executive resume consultant and is certified as a professional resume writer by the Professional Association of Resume Writers. She has developed more than 600 resumes for executives all over the United States and for international clients as well. With more than 10 years experience in marketing and sales, she has the skills to build effective job search marketing campaigns and attention-getting resumes.

(1)“Healthcare” vs. “Health Care”: The Definitive Word(s),
(2) Excerpt from Wikipedia article (

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