I will resume writing my resume…
With all the different regions of the world that use English, and all the words borrowed from other languages, English spelling sure is problematic! There is often more than one acceptable spelling for a word. The team at ESL-Library was recently confronted with some controversy over the spelling of “resume”. This word, which comes from the French noun “résumé”, appears many times in our Office Life – Business in English lessons, as well as in a few lessons within the Everyday Idioms (Part 2) section and in the Employment lesson in our Living in English section . We had been spelling “resume” without any accents, but had to make a decision as to whether we wanted to continue to spell it that way. We’ll share our thought process below, and we’d love to know what other teachers think.
What do the dictionaries say?
- In the US: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary lists this entry as résumé or resume, also resumé, which means that all forms are correct and acceptable. However, they consider “résumé” and “resume” to be equal variants, whereas “resumé” is a secondary variant and not as common as the first two options.
- In Canada: The Oxford Canadian Dictionary of Current English lists this entry as resumé, and doesn’t list any variants. However, the Government of Canada’s website uses both résumé and resume often. As a Canadian myself, I tend to use resume when typing online in order to avoid code problems.
- In the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa: In these countries, “Curriculum Vitae” or “CV” is preferred. However, the Oxford Dictionary Online lists this entry as resume: a variant spelling of résumé (North American), which means that they consider “résumé” to be the more acceptable form.
What about confusion with the verb “resume”?
Our consensus was that context is sufficient to determine whether “resume” is referring to the noun (CV) or the verb (to begin again). The noun is used primarily in business English contexts when discussing job hunting, applying for jobs, interviewing, etc. Students need to learn how to use context to help figure out word meanings; it’s an essential skill. Words such as wind (noun) / wind (verb) and present (noun) / present (verb) don’t normally pose a problem because the context usually clarifies which meaning/part of speech is being used.
What is best for the students?
My personal opinion is that students will most often see and write (i.e., type) “resume” without accents because that is the most common way it is spelled on computers and mobile devices. Most people don’t bother using their “special characters” feature to find accented letters, especially in English where accents are rare. Also, many students are native speakers of languages where accents have specific functions that are not always related to pronunciation (some accents are used to indicate syllable stress, for example), and some students may never have seen accents at all. Using “résumé” or “resumé”, with accents, might result in confusion, if only at first.
However, after seeing “resume” in the lesson, I would advise that teachers talk to students about the other two spellings. I believe it’s always a good idea to present the other variations of a word to students in case they come across them at some point.
We are sticking with “resume” for now, but plan to include a note in the answer key to remind teachers to introduce the other spelling variations if they wish (especially if they are in countries outside the US). What do you think?
Try ESL Library’s How to Write a Resume lesson from our Writing in English section.