Grammar

Should You Spell Resume With Accents?

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When you’re starting your job search, here’s a basic question to ponder: Should you spell resume with accents or without?

Should you spell resume with the accents or without them? Should it be resume, resumé, or résumé?

First things first: what does the word mean?

Professor Paul Brians at Washington State University maintains a great writing website. He points out that résumé is a French word that means “summary.” Your résumé, after all, is a summary. It lists your work history, your qualifications and your skills, among other things. That document usually serves as the first impression you make for a would-be employer.

But how should you spell the word if it comes up?

Purists will no doubt argue two salient points.

The first would be that spelling it without the accent marks makes it look a different word, resume, which means “to continue.”

That’s a valid point to an extent.

The second, and more likely argument, is that because it’s a French word that carries two accents, our use should also include the two accents.

However, there are plenty of words the English language “borrows” from other languages. As a general rule, the accent marks accompany the words when they’re brought into English.

We still use an accent mark in cliché, as Brians points out.

But more and more often, we drop the accent mark in the word cafe. (Of course, it used to be written always as café.)

Career expert Emilia Mucha, at the website Zety.com, points out that the French don’t use the term for the document in question. Instead, she says, they use CV or curriculum vitae.

I’ve seen quite a few people use that term over the years when they want to appear fancy. I would imagine that for most would-be employers who aren’t looking to hire someone bilingual, it’s probably not that impressive.

Merriam-Webster says two of the options are more common: resume and résumé. The third option, resumé, is listed as less common.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language lists all three as valid options, listing the double-accent version first.

The Associated Press Style Book says resume is fine. But then AP avoids accent marks largely because different computer systems that work with AP feeds sometimes get confused by punctuation marks.

In a discussion at LiveCareer.com, Angela Copeland points out you’ll most commonly use the word when naming the actual file of your résumé. You’ll save and then upload or email. In that case, you’ll name it resume since computers tend to dislike diacritical marks in filenames.

So which is more correct? Which is better?

If you’re using AP Style, resume is better because AP says so. A survey of dictionaries seem to suggest that you’re better off going with either two accents or none.

Resumé may seem more “foreign” because it’s forcing that last vowel to be pronounced in a way the verb resume wouldn’t be. But as a third choice, it’s less common.

If you want to use résumé, go for it. If you’re applying for a job, particularly one in which a knowledge of a foreign language may be part of your duties, it can’t hurt.

I can tell you that having hired a few writers myself over the years in the real job, I’ve never once ruled out someone for spelling the word with no accents. (My real job does rely on AP Style, I note for the record.) I just don’t think it’s wrong to drop the accents as the word has become more and more “Americanized” over the years.

If you worry, however, take this hint. Look at the employer’s website: if it asks for a cover letter and résumé, write resume with accents intact. If they don’t, you should assume it’s safe not to.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.