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Why line and paragraph spacing are crucial for a top-notch resume

Updated: Jun 26

Properly spacing the lines and paragraphs on your resume can make a difference between success and failure.

When I was a recruiter at AECOM, my job was to find the right people to fill engineering jobs across the company.

We received a lot of applications, often hundreds, many of whom were more than qualified for the position they were applying for. But sometimes, it wasn't the most qualified applicants that got the interview.

Want to know why?

They simply weren't as readable. There are a number of factors that could cause a resume's readability to drop, but today, I'm going to tell you about line and paragraph spacing.

What is line spacing?

It's exactly what it sounds like. Line spacing is the amount of vertical space in between the lines on the page.

Text with little spacing will appear dense and is harder to read. As a recruiter trying to get through dozens of applicants, I found myself straining anytime someone sent in a resume that looked like the one below.

resume line spacing
Part of a resume with 0 line spacing and 0 paragraph spacing - it's hard to distinguish where one bullet ends and another begins.

Contrast this to a resume with ample spacing, and you'll quickly see what I'm talking about. It makes a big difference in readability, which is something that's often underestimated in the job search world. Take it from me, the easier you can make a recruiter's job, the better your chances of success will be - that includes seemingly minor things like document spacing!

resume line spacing
Part of a resume with 1.15 line spacing - notice the difference in readability


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What should I set my line spacing to?

If you're working in Microsoft Word (my tool of choice) or Google Docs, choose a 1.1 to 1.15 line spacing, which balances readability with space usage. Any more than that and you'll take up more space than you need, and less than that won't achieve the desired effect on readability.

How do I change line spacing in Microsoft Word?

Note: This tutorial is based on Microsoft Word for Mac as a part of the Office 365 subscription. If you're using an older version of Word, your options may differ slightly.

Step 1: Highlight the text you want to modify the spacing on, then select the 'line and paragraph spacing' icon from the ribbon at the top of the screen.

resume line spacing

Step 2: Scroll down and click on the option that says 'line spacing options'.

resume line spacing

Step 3: In the line spacing box in the bottom right portion of the window, type in your desired line spacing. My preference is 1.1 to 1.15, as I find that's the perfect balance of spacing and efficiency.

resume line spacing

What is paragraph spacing?

Like line spacing, paragraph spacing is also important for achieving good readability; however, while line spacing determines the space in between lines, paragraph spacing determines the space in between paragraphs.

In the screenshot below, you can see how adding 6 pt paragraph spacing adds a nice cushion in between paragraphs and bullets.

Compared to the previous resume that had zero line and paragraph spacing, this one is significantly easier to read.

resume paragraph spacing
Ample paragraph spacing makes a resume much easier to skim - something you should always strive for!

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How do I change paragraph spacing in Microsoft Word?

Follow steps 1 and 2 from the line spacing tutorial above. Once you enter the line spacing options window, select spacing boxes labelled with 'before' or 'after' as illustrated in the screenshot below.

What's the difference between before and after spacing? That simply tells Word where to insert the space: above the paragraph/bullet or below it. I usually go with a 6 pt spacing below the paragraph.

Remember to uncheck the small box labelled 'Don't add space between paragraphs of the same style'. Otherwise, your bullets

One thing to be mindful of is the more you bump up your line or paragraph spacing, the less space you have on the page for content.


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About the Author

James Cooper is a Professional Resume Writer, member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches (PARWCC) and has been in the recruiting, career coaching, and writing business for almost 14 years. He began his career recruiting for AECOM, a Canadian engineering firm, and he's gone on to work with and help professionals land roles at top Fortune 500 companies.

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