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Seven resume grammar mistakes that make you look dumb

Written by Lola Brown
Posted on May 12, 2014

Lots of us struggle with grammar, and there are several very common mistakes that most people get wrong from time to time. While you may not think making the occasional grammar slip up is that big a deal, it can serve as a warning sign to employers that your work could be sloppy, or you don’t have the capacity to represent their company in the best light.

One of the most common reasons hiring managers give for passing over a resume is that it contains typos and spelling and grammar mistakes.

Unfortunately, even if you’ve got an amazing resume that shows off your skills, talents, and great attitude, those mistakes could be ensuring that your resume heads straight to the nearest trash can. Here are seven of the most common errors people make, so you can double check that there are none lurking in your resume or cover letter before you apply for your next dream job:

1) Using there/ they’re/ their incorrectly

Although those three words all sound exactly the same, they have different meanings, and using them in the wrong context is something that grammar sticklers always notice. How do you use them the right way? “There” is used to indicate the placement of something, i.e. “While there I increased revenue by 500%.”

“They’re,” meanwhile, is a shortened version of they are, so you’d say, “I provide clients with the excellent service they’re looking for.”

“Their” is used to explain that something belongs to someone, as in “I was their biggest asset.”

2) Adding apostrophes when you don’t need them

When you place an apostrophe in a word it is to show that something belongs to something or someone. For example, “Whilst in the director’s position I moved the company from third to first in market share.”

Lots of people get this grammar rule wrong and slip an apostrophe in to a plural word, as in they’d put “There are lots of employer’s that I’ve reached out to.” Just don’t do it, as it really shows a lack of knowledge as to how the English language works.

3) Using its/ it’s incorrectly

Although this seems stupid considering how the above rule works, you don’t use an apostrophe to show the possessive of “it.” Example, “I spearheaded an initiative, the first if its kind…” is the right way to use that in a sentence, but if you are shortening “it is” into “it’s,” you use the apostrophe, as in “It’s my dream job.” Easy to miss this one, so be sure to double-check anything you’re sending out to employers.

4) Not knowing the difference between your and you’re

When you use “your,” you are referring to something belonging to a person, for example: “I will move your organization up to the next level.”

Whereas “you’re” is an abbreviated version of “you are,” so you’d use it like this: “I am the employee you’re looking for.” Simple, eh?

5) Using then when you mean than, and vice versa

These words look pretty similar but have completely different meanings, so you’ll come across as a complete doofus when you choose the wrong one. “Then” refers to something that is happening next, or at a moment in time, such as, “I worked at Widgets and things for ten years, then became office manager there.”

“Than” is used when comparing things, such as “I produced more revenue than all the other sales reps combined.”

6) Mixing up too, to, and two

Again, these three words sound the same, but mean different things entirely. “Two” is a number. “Too” is used in place of “very,” “also,” or “as well as,” so you’d say, “Completed the project six months early and came in under budget too,” (though, really, you would really probably use “also” to sound more professional) or “The only negative thing I’ve ever been told is that I am too amazing.”

Plain old “to” is a preposition, and most commonly used, as in, “With me on your team you will be in a position to crush the competition.”

7) Using accept when you mean except

Though similar sounding, these words have different spellings and different meanings, so completely change what you are saying when you slip the wrong one into a sentence. You “accept” awards, positive feedback, and gifts, but “except” is another way of saying “other than,” so it really doesn’t fit in to the place of “accept” without looking very awkward indeed.

“Accepting the Pulitzer Prize for long-form journalism was my proudest achievement, except perhaps for being awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. It’s hard to choose.”

Now go clean up you’re resume… Sorry… I mean your resume.

See also: How your grammar skills affect your salary