Ask recruiters and HR professionals what their greatest resume/cover letter pet peeve is and the answer will certainly include spelling and grammar errors.
You only have one chance to make a first impression. Your written communication (email, cover letter and resume) is your chance to stand out for the right reasons!
I’ll admit, when I get ready to hit the publish button for my blog posts, I usually do not hit the spell check button first (Shhh. Horrible, I know!) As a result, I’ve been called out on some very basic errors that shouldn’t have slipped through. In the eye of the reader, these silly oversights discredit my professionalism.
But when you are writing emails or cover letters, you can’t afford to have any typos or mistakes.
Spelling and Grammar Errors To Avoid
I know you are in a hurry to submit your information. But haste makes waste! Take the extra couple of minutes to double-check your work.
- Make sure you have the person’s name spelled correctly and their company name.
- Check to be sure you are using the right job title and company name, especially if you are cutting and pasting information into your cover letter. That’s a sure way to get your information tossed into the recycle bin.
Commonly Misspelled Words
Some misspelled words are not necessarily caught by spell check because the misspelling is also a legitimate word. Double-check your work for these common and avoidable misspellings.
Manager (not manger)
Assess (not asses)
Led (not lead)
Maintenance (not maintenence)
License (not lisence)
Liaison (not liason)
Lose (not loose)
Common Grammar Mistakes
Grammar is equally important. In fact, Kyle Wiens writes in a Harvard Business Review blog post: “Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important.”
Take your time and review your work for these commonly confused words.
Your vs. You’re
“Your” shows possession, such as “your salary requirements.” “You’re” is a contraction of “you are,” as in “you’re excited to learn more about the position.”
Than vs. Then
“Than” is used to compare different things. For example, “The results of the campaign were five times greater than previous marketing initiatives.” The word “then” has several different meanings such as “at a point in time.” Used correctly, it might look like this: “The project continued, then, due to changes in client requirements, ended immediately.”
They’re vs. Their vs. There
“They’re” is a contraction of “they are,” “their” indicates possession and “there” specifies a location. Here are examples of how to use each properly:
“They’re ready to embark on a new adventure.”
“Their trip was canceled due to poor weather.”
“When they arrived in New York, they were the only ones there.”
It’s vs. Its
“It’s” is a contraction for the two words “it is.” When you use “its” you show possession of an inanimate object or gender-neutral noun:
“It’s unusual to see such an amazing opportunity.”
“The company lost its key customer and my job was eliminated.”
Commonly Mispronounced Words
So you say you have strong communication skills but are you mispronouncing any of these words? Prove you are a skilled communicator. Even if your written materials are flawless, poor verbal communication is a big turn off.
Note the “r” in these words
February and library each have an “r” after the “b” and are pronounced Feb-roo-err-ee (not Febuary) and li-brer-ee (not libary)
Jewelry is pronounced joo – wel – ree not joo –ler –ee.
Incorrect pronunciation: or – ee – en – tated
Correct pronunciation: or – ee – ented
Incorrect: su – po – sa – blee
Correct: su – po – sid – lee
Justin Brown identifies these commonly heard mistakes in a post for Primer Magazine:
For all intents and purposes
Incorrect pronunciation: for all intensive purposes
Correct pronunciation: for all intents and purposes
Incorrect pronunciation: up – most
Correct pronunciation: utt – most
Incorrect pronunciation: off – ten
Correct pronunciation: off – en
Incorrect pronunciation: nuke – you – lerr
Correct pronunciation: new – clee – err
It is difficult to proofread your own work. The best solution is to have someone else review it for you, however, this isn’t always possible. Here are some tips from the Grammar Girl website to help you when editing your own work:
- Give yourself some time. Don’t edit your work immediately. You want to review it through a fresh set of eyes.
- Read your work backward. Begin reading your last sentence and move forward toward the beginning of the document. This should help prevent your brain from skipping words it thinks are there.
- Read your work out loud. When you read your work out loud, you are more likely to read each word and this can help catch missing words and even punctuation.
- Proofread a printed version of your work. People often find errors on the printed copy that they overlooked on the computer screen. When you change the way something looks and where you are physically located, it often provides a fresh perspective.
Have you tried using Grammarly? I use it all the time! It checks emails in real-time and social media updates too.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.