Common CV grammar mistakes that could cost you a career

Published: 13 Jan 2017

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Make 2017 the year to make your CV stand out for all the right reasons. Your CV acts as an introduction to potential employers, so niggling grammar errors can let you down as a candidate. Crafting a thorough CV template which promotes your skills and experience is time intensive, especially if you tailor each application to an individual vacancy, so checking your CV for tiny errors before you hit the send button makes sense - chances are that someone else will pick them out.

Don’t let a typo stop you from leading a happy life in the job you want. Here are some of the most common mistakes to edit straight away:

Singular vs. plural subject-verb agreements

Was the food and dancing at the party great? Or, were they great? The subject and verb in a sentence must align, whether they’re singular or plural. If the subject is singular, the verb should also be singular – and vice versa.

Right: My top is too big.

Wrong: My top are too big.

Right: The footballs fly through the air.

Wrong: The footballs flies through the air.

Get to grips with homophones

English is one of the hardest languages to learn, partly because a lot of words are pronounced the same but spelt differently. These are called homophones. Examples include know and no, new and knew, floured and flowered. Spelling and grammar checkers may not pick up on a misused homophone, so if you know that this is a problem area, check, check and check again, or ask a friend or family member to double check what you’ve written.

Their, there, they’re

A common grammatical issue which can be easily avoided:

  • Their – use to describe belonging: their company
  • There – use when referring to a place or object: over there
  • They’re – ‘They are’

Possessives and contractions

Like a lot of grammar rules, you may not quite remember the terms from school, but you’ll probably be able to spot a broken rule on a page. Understanding ‘Possessive’ and ‘Contraction’ words is one such example. Possessive words describe something that belongs to you, so ‘you and your’. A contraction is a slice of two words, for example, ‘you’re: you are’, which will give your sentence a totally different meaning. When in doubt, break up the contraction and review the sentence. If it doesn’t make sense, switch to the possessive.

Its vs. it’s

Again, this apostrophe mistake is best tackled by breaking up the two components. ‘Its’ describes belonging, while ‘It’s’ should only be used when it is an abbreviation of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’.

Affect vs. effect

Have you been affected by this grammar rule?

  • Affect: Someone/something has been influenced

Students in England were affected by the policy.

  • Effect: when something has resulted in/been produced

The government effected a policy that changed the lives of students

Capitalisation

You’ll come across plenty of websites that misuse capitalisation, possibly in a bid to make something look more important. Transferring this approach to your CV, however, will look out of place on any template. There are a lot of capitalisation rules to remember, so here’s a quick list of the important ones:

  • North, south, east west: capitalise if they are an integral part of a geo location, for example: Along the West Coast, in the North East, but don’t if you’re merely describing a direction, for example: Go south from North Street.
  • Capitalise brands, company names and organisations.
  • Institutions, for example, King’s College London.
  • Special occasions, like the Olympic Games and Brighton Film Festival.
  • Job titles: capitalise if the title comes immediately before a name: Managing Director Bob Bull. Lower case should be used if a title comes after the name as it is just describing the role: Eddy, the senior executive, worked on the project.

Sentence run-ons

The official name for a sentence that goes on and on is a run-on sentence. These occur when two main parts of a sentence (clauses) are connected without any punctuation and conjunction breaks. Conjunction words include ‘and’, ‘but’ and ‘or’. 

Good grammar plays its part in building your profile as a valuable candidate. It can help you to sculpt your ideas and opinions more effectively and enhance your position as a credible and professional person to have around.

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