The Ohio State University Alumni Association

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Visiting Associate Professor of Psychology Ashleigh Maxcey says her advocacy of clear, concise science writing should translate to resumes and cover letters.

Jo McCulty

How to translate big ideas

An advocate for clear, concise writing breaks it down for you

It can be easy to get hopelessly tangled in your own words. Visiting Associate Professor of Psychology Ashleigh Maxcey, an advocate for clear, direct academic science writing, reminds job seekers that keeping it simple is a freeing approach.

Uncover your personality

Your cover letter should focus on your person in addition to your knowledge. “People are looking for somebody they’re either personally going to spend a lot of time with or who they want to represent them,” Maxcey says.

Drop the thesaurus 

“When you come out of the gate guns blazing, using big words, all they’re going to think is, ‘Yeah, I know those big words, too, but do I want to spend all day with you?’” Demonstrate what you know by simplifying it.

Speak up (in writing) 

Try writing like you speak. “Some people just dictate what they would like to say as if they’re speaking to a peer or a colleague and then they literally type that up,” Maxcey says.

Customize it

Use your résumé to show your knowledge, technical sophistication and experience. Develop different versions for specific job ads. If a company “can scan your résumé and it doesn’t line up with the qualifications that they say they’re looking for, then you just shot yourself in the foot,” Maxcey says.

About the author

Sarah H. Magill

Sarah H. Magill '90 MA studied journalism at Ohio State. She is a high school English teacher.