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10 Stupid Spelling And Grammar Mistakes You Must Avoid

job search, stupid mistakes, spelling and grammar, cover letters, resumes, cover notes, emails, thank you notes, hurt your careerThis is a guest blog post by Leslie Ayres.

I’m a recruiter, which means I get to read thousands of resumes and cover notes every year.

I’m also a resume writer and a world-class spelling and grammar nitpicker, which means I spend a lot of time shaking my head in dismay at the obvious mistakes people make in these incredibly important documents.

It’s clear that some people can’t (or won’t) proofread. Others tell me they can’t remember the rules, and some must be in a heck of a hurry to miss that glaring typo in the first line.

Whatever the reason, the result’s the same: they lose out on the interview.

Stupid mistakes in spelling and grammar in resumes, cover letters and business emails and correspondence will hurt your career.

How you do anything is how you do everything. If you’re willing to submit a sloppy resume for something as important as a new job, an employer will suspect that you’re likely to be sloppy doing the job, too.


Here is a quick checklist of the most common mistakes I see in resumes, cover letters and emails. (See if you can spot the errors in the example sentences; some of them are right and some are wrong.)

1. Manager/Manger

I’m an excellent manager of accounts payable and customer service.

A manager is someone in charge. A manger is a trough for feeding animals, which is understandably not a common word for business, except as a typo Use your word processing software to find manger and fix it.

2. Your/You’re

If your resume has spelling and grammar mistakes, you’re not going to get the interview.

I’m amazed at how many highly educated people get these wrong. It’s really simple:

Your is possessive and means something belongs to the person you’re talking to. You’re is a contraction of the words you are.

TIP: Just substitute you are and see if your sentence still makes sense. Otherwise, use your.  

3. Its/It’s

The document lost its formatting and it’s taken me all day to recreate it.

Its is possessive and means something belongs to it. It’s is a contraction of it is or it has.

TIP: Substitute it is and if it doesn’t make sense, use its. (Are you noticing a pattern here? Apostrophes indicate contractions of two words.)

4. They’re/Their/There

There were 120 candidates, buy they’re only interviewing ten and will ask three for their references.

They’re is the contraction of they are. (There’s that contraction again.) Their means it belongs to them. There indicates a specific place, incident or time.

5. Lead/Led

He asked who wanted to lead the team, and was led to believe that no one wanted the job.

Lead means to guide or go first. Led is the past tense of lead. Lead is also the heavy metal and what we find in pencils.

6. A lot/Alot/Allot

How much time should we allot if we need to get a lot accomplished before Monday?

A lot means a large quantity. Allot means to parcel out. And alot is not a word, people.

7. You and I/You and Me

Between you and me, missing that deadline meant that you and I are in trouble.

You and I is equivalent to the word we. You and me is equivalent to the word us.

TIP: Try the equivalent pronouns we and us l and the right choice becomes obvious. You’d never say Between we, missing that deadline means us are in trouble. And it’s never between you and me.

8. Pluralizing with Apostrophes

I’ve had six resume’s since the 1990s, during which time I worked for five companies.   

Most nouns are made plural by adding s (resumes), es (taxes), and occasionally ies (companies). No nouns (except a few acronyms or letter-words) become plural with apostrophes.

TIP: A simple rule of thumb: apostrophes are possessive, not plural.  

9. To/Too

There were too many problems about how to manage the department, too.

Using the wrong to/too is usually just a typo, but it can disrupt the flow as someone reads your resume, and make them wonder if you just don’t know better, so proof specifically for this error if you’re prone to making it.

To is a preposition meaning in the direction of. Too is an adverb meaning also, excessive or very, and it also means also.

10. Random Capitalization

Enclosed please find my Resume for a Management position with your Company.

Don’t capitalize words for emphasis. It makes it look like you don’t understand the rules, which are very simple: Capitalize the first word of every sentence. Capitalize proper nouns. Capitalize the word I.

TIP: If you want to emphasize a word, use bold or italics.

I’d guesstimate that these ten mistakes account for about 80% of grammatical and spelling errors I see, and they’re easy to fix if you just take some time to proofread.

Competition for the best jobs is fierce enough without giving people any ammunition to reject you because you don’t know the difference between its and it’s.

Fix these ten things and you’re 80% on your way.

Photo from 123rf.com

I’m a master at all things job search. I’m an active executive recruiter for cool technology startups; author of Be Real: The Simple Secret to Knowing the Perfect Job for You; resident career expert at NBC Universal’s website www.WorkGoesStrong.com; speaker to colleges and career groups; and I keep an active practice as a job search coach and resume writer. (My resumes rock.) I’m on a mission that we all love our jobs and our lives, because that makes more happiness all around. And that means you, so come check out my website at www.TheJobSearchGuru.com.

Leslie Ayres – who has written posts on Tim's Strategy®.

Written by: Leslie Ayres
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  • D Weathers

    Perhaps you should adhere to your advice regarding taking “some time to proofread.”

    In the tip section of number 7. You and I/You and Me:

    There is a typo between the words “us” and “and”. There is an extra “I”

    TIP: Try the equivalent pronouns we and us l and the right choice becomes obvious. You’d never say Between we, missing that deadline means us are in trouble. And it’s never between you and me.

  • John Phillips

    In tip #4 you have buy where you meant to have but.

  • http://timsstrategy.com/ TimsStrategy

    Thanks John and D for your reactions. Writing one of these posts always sets you up for a potential gotcha. I love this post because it got a lot of people back looking at their marketing materials to find a few obvious “fix” candidates. Thanks Leslie for pushing us in the right direction! :-)

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  • http://twitter.com/JobSearchGuru Leslie Ayres

    Sorry I haven’t checked back here! And I confess that I’m laughing at myself at the typos, and even worse, that as I re-read the blog, I see how emphatically I said “it’s never between you and me” when I of course meant to say “it’s never between you and I”! As I told Tim, one of my blogs over on NBC’s site Work Goes Strong was about spelling and grammar mistakes, and it went viral with 35K likes on Facebook and 1100 comments! I saw how passionate people are about grammar and spelling, and also saw Muphry’s Law in action (which is that whenever you respond to something with a comment about grammar, you will inevitably make a grammatical mistake). Guilty and laughing about it! (Though you still want your resume to be perfect ;^)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=687181409 Simon Glickman

    Amen. Now how do we get people to stop saying “myself” when they just mean “me”?

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  • GoatGuy

    I know the apostrophe-does-not-belong-on-plurals rule … but what do we do with the letters of the alphabet themselves? There are 4 s’s in this sentence. The spelled-out words just don’t look right. Esses. Ses. The hopelessly technical solution is just ugly. “There are 4 S-glyphs in this sentence.”

    Same for B’s, C’s, D’s and F’s. Without that darn apostrophe, there’s just nothing one can type that seems to carry home the idea of “writing down what we say”. Jeremy got 3 B’s, 4 C’s and 2 A’s on his third quarter report card.

    As an aside, if one were to want to use the “proper spelling of the glyphs” to resolve this, what would be the proper spelling of the first 6 letters of the alphabet? ABCDEF?

    A = Aye (but that sounds like ‘eye’); aeigh / aigh / ae (I like) / eh (hey!) / ey B = Be (nope) / Bee (bug) / Bi (intersexual) / Beigh (bay? bee?) C = See? D = Dee – which I think we all can agree with.E = … I don’t even want to venture!F = Ef, or is that eff, or ehf, or eph?

    Thus the problem. Sometimes – rarely, and very rarely at that – having the apostrophe just fixes up a situation that no seven English speakers have agreed has a solution.


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