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Qualifications- None

W
hen I see a resume that makes it obvious the job-seeker doesn't know the difference between a dash and a hyphen, I'm tempted to toss it.

Harsh? I don't think so. It would be harsh to do that to a reporting candidate, or to a copy-editing candidate at a weekly or small daily, but a copy editor in the big leagues is supposed to be an expert on punctuation, or at least to have some eye for detail in the area. The distinction between a hyphen and a dash is a pretty basic point.

Now, there is some room for error on the subject. Some publications use the traditionally correct method and do their dashes "tight" -- without the spaces on either side that I'm using here -- while others, bowing to the vagaries of computer typesetting, follow AP style and use the spaces. I would prefer that any copy editor who's going to work for me know AP style and follow it unless otherwise instructed, but I don't mind seeing "tight" dash style on a resume.

Beyond that, I'm not so forgiving. A hyphen is a hyphen, and a dash is a dash; a dash is generally twice as wide as a hyphen.

For purposes of this discussion, "dash" means em dash, the standard dash that's as wide as a capital M. On typewriters and perhaps in some very rudimentary word-processing programs, a dash is made by simply typing two hyphens. (I use that convention here as well because some browsers don't recognize the actual dash.) In newspapers, hyphens are used in cases where more formal publications would use an en dash, an esoteric little critter as wide as a capital N that is used by ultrapurists for ranges, such as "1980–84," and in cases where multiple-word modifiers need an extra level of delineation. Some of these publications use the en dash in conjunction with the hyphen. Whereas capital-gains tax, a term with a two-word modifier, would get one hyphen, capital-gains–tax cut, with its three-word modifier, would get a hyphen for the first-level linkage and an en dash for the second-level linkage. More common in publications using the en dash is the philosophy that the en takes the place of the extra hyphen, that the extra length extends backward to link the next word: capital gains-tax cut. Newspapers (at least those that hyphenate as religiously as I do) would simply use two hyphens: capital-gains-tax cut. As a newspaperman, that's my rule. Sorry, but I don't do en dashes.

What is not acceptable to me is the use of hyphens as dashes. Resume writers often fall into this trap when doing headings, as in:

Education- B.A., University of Michigan, 1989


Now what?

Move on to I'M NOT A MEDIUM

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