Developing Your Career

Check Your Grammar: Tips to Prevent Avoidable Mistakes

By Helene Cavalli on January 28, 2013

Why make a bad impression when it is so easy to ensure the proper use of punctuation and grammar? Some recruiters and hiring managers take a very tough stance on poor grammar – even going so far as to eliminate candidates from consideration. While the general consensus shows a little more leniency – taking into consideration the type of position and how much writing would be involved – most agree that poor grammar is avoidable and creates a bad impression.

In a Harvard Business Review blog, “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.,” author Kyle Wiens takes a firm stand on why someone with less-than-stellar communication skills shouldn’t be hired. The concern is that communication – written and verbal – fraught with grammatical errors will reflect poorly on the company brand and negatively impact the individual’s credibility. Hearing a company representative misuse contractions, pronouns and verb tense won’t instill confidence in his or her performance.

Be mindful of the rules and go the extra mile to make sure your writing is free of errors. These tips will help:

  • Don’t guess. If you’re not sure about the use of certain punctuation or have a question on grammar, usage or style, visit one of the following searchable websites for clarification: Grammar Girl or The Elements of Style. Most universities also have stylebooks online for public use.
  • Don’t be confused. In the online Guide to Grammar and Writing a large section called “Notorious Confusables” explains the differences between words that are frequently confused (lose, loose; advice, advise) and words that sound the same but are spelled differently (you’re, your; alter, altar). These cringe-worthy spelling errors won’t be caught by spell check.
  • Refresh. If you know that your communication skills are a bit rusty, consider taking a short refresher course online or at your local community college.
  • Proofread and proofread again. After running spell check and proofing your document yourself, it’s often a good idea to enlist a “second set of eyes.” Have someone you trust look over your writing before submission. Reading the document aloud also helps writers improve word choice and style.

In our fiercely competitive job market, the margin between being selected for an interview and being overlooked entirely is very slim. Don’t let grammatical errors in your resume or cover letter create the wrong impression … or take you out of the running.

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