I'm writing a resume and describing the work I did in a previous job, I "...installed and troubleshooted, designed and built machines, and trained on safety, maintenance and repair."

how on earth do I punctuate this mess?

  • If the first four verbs all refer to things you did with "machines," I would arrange them in a series (in sequential order, if possible); and then i would run the next three verbs, which focus on staffers (presumably), as a second series, thus: "I designed, built, installed, and troubleshot machines; and I trained staffers in the areas of safety, maintenance, and repair." As for punctuation, my version uses serial commas and breaks the two main parts of the original text with a semicolon. You might, however, drop the serial commas and/or replace the semicolon with a period. – Sven Yargs Jan 14 '16 at 6:07

In general, try to not have too many and's in between terms in a list. Here is part of your sentence:

"...installed, troubleshooted, designed, and built machines"

When setting off items that contain commas in a list, you use a semicolon. (for example, Paris, France; London, England; Madrid, Spain...) A potential sentence you could use is:

"...installed, troubleshooted, designed, and built machines; and trained on safety, maintenance, and repair."

Note the use of the Oxford comma (in their own blocks). Although there is no definite answer to whether or not you should put those commas, in this case, the sentence flows smoother with those commas. But if you disagree with the Oxford comma, you can remove them.

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When writing a list of items in which an individual item or items have their own internal commas, the rule is to use semicolons instead of commas to separate the listed items, so you would write it as follows:

"...installed and troubleshot; designed and built machines; and trained on safety, maintenance and repair."

Whether you use a semicolon after machines is optional. It would follow the same rules as applying an Oxford comma (series comma). In this instance, I would include it in order to draw a clear line between the penultimate item and the last item in the list. While most readers could jump back and reread it to suss out what you meant, a semicolon prevents having to do that. In my humble opinion, it would make it easier to read.

Incidentally, while "troubleshooted" is acceptable, the past tense of "to shoot" is "shot," and a reviewer may be apt to perceive that "troubleshooted" is incorrect. It wouldn't be incorrect, but then the perception of it not being so could very well rely on a reviewer going to the trouble of checking a dictionary rather than jumping to the conclusion you made a mistake. This is a résumé. Studies show you have 6.25 seconds to make an impression with it, so nobody's checking a dictionary. In a nutshell, don't invite trouble; say, "troubleshot."

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