Resume Line Spacing: Why It's Important and How to Format
Updated March 10, 2023
Formatting your resume to showcase your best skills, your experience and qualifications is essential in making an impression on employers. However, your resume line spacing is equally as important as the information you put into it. From spacing your headers and body text to inserting line breaks in the right spot, resume line spacing can affect the appearance of your resume. In this article, we'll discuss the importance of resume line spacing and how you can format your line spacing to create a cohesive and easily scannable resume that employers will notice.
Why is line spacing on a resume important?
The line spacing on your resume can mean the difference between clearly legible print and coherent resume sections and unclear spacing and an disorganized appearance. The amount of space you leave between headings, sentences and the sections of your resume can have an impact on how likely it is an employer will continue reading your resume after skimming through.
To add to that, many employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS for short) and usually spend no more than a few seconds scanning a single resume. That said, your resume line spacing can be advantageous in making your key skills and qualifications stand out right away. For instance, proper spacing between the bullet points you include in your work experience section will make each of your past responsibilities stand out more clearly and legibly and will be easily scannable by both an employer and ATS software.
How to format your resume line spacing
Use the following approaches to format your resume line spacing so that your key skills and qualifications stand out to employers:
1. Choose an appropriate resume format
Use a resume format that is appropriate to the industry or role you're applying for. Typically, a classic or traditional resume format that includes distinctive sections like your skills, work experience and education is the best choice to go with, no matter the industry. The line spacing of a traditional resume format is usually single-spaced, and this provides enough space for all of your information while keeping the text clear and legible.
2. Consider the size of your fonts
Avoid fonts that are decorative in nature, such as calligraphic and formal scripts, as these types of fonts can affect how your text appears between each line. Instead, choose a font that allows for readability with traditional single line spacing. Several excellent fonts that provide readability and that are compatible across platforms include Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana, Georgia and other mono- and serif fonts.
3. Make use of the white space on your resume
Use your resume line spacing to create a balance of white space between sections, headings and each line of your resume sections. For example, create a larger line space between headers (like your section headings) and the following text, such as a 1.5-point line spacing. Then, for the body text of each section (like your job duties under your work experience), you can set your line spacing back to single-spaced. This will help create cohesiveness between each line of text, whether it's a section heading or a list of your accomplishments.
4. Take advantage of line breaks
Use line breaks to create an alignment effect between each section of your resume. You can do this by hitting "enter" on your keyboard twice to insert a blank line between sections, or you can insert a horizontal line through your word processor's functions. Line breaks help each section flow into the next, while highlighting each aspect of your qualifications for the job.
5. Align each section of your resume
Ensure each section of your resume is aligned according to the format you're using. For example, if your resume is a one-page resume with the general sections for your objective or summary, work experience, education, skills and other credentials, align the main text to the left. You can also align your headings to the left, but if you are using a plain font with plenty of white space, consider aligning your header text in the center to make it stand out.
Similarly, in a two-column resume, ensure that the left-most column is aligned to the left and that the right-hand column is either right-aligned or text-justified.
6. Use automatic margins or set custom ones
Set your page's margins to use all the space that's available to you. Your word processor should have the option to set your own margins, or you can leave what the program sets automatically. Generally, the top and bottom margins of the page should be no more than 0.5 inches. The side margins should be no less than 0.75 inches. This will ensure you have enough room to set your page for single-spaced or 1.5-point line spacing, keeping your text united and balanced.
Related: A Guide to Resume Margins
7. Use program tools to set your line spacing
Manually change your line spacing in your program tools. This should be within the page setup function, where you can set the space between each line of text to the point you want. Typically, resumes stay within a single-spaced format up to 1.5-point spacing. You want enough space to keep your resume scannable without leaving too much white space between lines of text.
8. Match your resume style with the nature of the job
Traditional resume styles have their advantages, however, there are times when a nontraditional resume style is effective at showcasing your qualifications. For instance, a graphic designer might include a small custom logo to reflect the company (and their own personal brand) they're applying to. In this case, a resume style that provides effective line spacing for readability and space for graphics is an effective way to demonstrate hireability.
9. Keep your resume easily scannable for employers
The line spacing of your resume is essential for creating a text structure that is easily scannable for employers. Since many employers typically spend only seconds skimming through your credentials, it's important to keep your line spacing unobstructed by letter and character elements. Additionally, keeping your resume scannable with appropriate line spacing will ensure employers quickly see what you're saying.
10. Use bold and italic font styles to highlight important parts
Integrating simple style elements like bold lettering or italics for headings and important bits of information is a quick and easy way to make these points stand out. The key is to keep it minimal by highlighting elements of your resume like section headings, contact information and key credentials the employer is specifically looking for. Avoid adding too many bold and italic elements, though, and keep it to a minium for only the most pertinent lines of your resume.
11. Get rid of orphan words and hanging phrases
Orphan words are single words by themselves on a line of text. These will not only affect the appearance of your resume, but they will take up valuable line space, too. The solution to orphan words is to see if you can reword some items in the bullet point or sentence so that the orphan word moves back up to the line above it.
Similarly, hanging phrases (phrases including only two or three small words by themselves on a line of text) take up useful line space as well. Just like you would an orphan word, reword your line of text so that the phrase moves back up a line.
12. Align all of your bullet points together
Ensure that your bullets for your job duties, educational accomplishments and other credentials are all in alignment with one another. For instance, if you set the bullet points in the work experience section to indent at 0.5 inches, all of the bullets in each section need to be the same. This will give each section of your resume a unified appearance, making it easily readable.
Related: 10 Steps for Building a Resume
Additional tips to consider
As you write your resume, here are several more considerations to keep in mind to create an effective resume:
Optimize your resume for employer ATS software
Since many employers use applicant tracking software to screen resumes during the hiring process, it's important that your resume can pass through any ATS it encounters. This means choosing a compatible font between file types, saving and uploading your resume in the correct file type and only submitting your resume once for the job.
Use key requirements from the job description to show your experience
Match the descriptions you provide in your resume with keywords and phrases from the job description. For instance, if the job description states a requirement for a bachelor's degree, you'll want to include this in your resume. Using keywords not only shows the employer you're exactly what they are looking for, but it can increase the chances of your resume passing through any ATS the employer may use to screen applicants.
Tailor your resume to match the job position
Avoid applying to positions that you have little or no experience in and ensure you're including the information that the employer is specifically asking for. For instance, if the employer requires customer service skills and demonstration of your communication skills, include examples of these traits in your resume.
Be consistent in your formatting and style choices
Stay consistent with your formatting, including how you place line breaks, how large of a line space you include between your headers and body text and other elements. Keeping your resume cohesive will make it easy for employers to scan and increase the chances they'll keep reading it once they see it.
Keep your work experience and best skills at the top
If you have exceptional accomplishments, special certifications or other specialized qualifications that make you the best fit for the job, move these to the top of your resume. This will guarantee employers see your achievements right away, which is highly beneficial for making an impact. Then, your remaining skills and experience can follow, further supporting your successes.
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