By Don Goodman
Many word processing programs offer the option to check spelling and grammar in your text. This can be a terrific time-saver to help eliminate many common errors in cover letters and resumes. As long as we don’t see the red or green zigzag markings under words, the document is good to go, right?
Spelling and grammar checks through software can never replace a human set of eyes that review for syntax and other errors in a document. That’s why an extra set of eyes, or the help of a professional to proofread your cover letters and resumes, are especially critical.
Employers can dismiss a candidate’s application and resume for many reasons. One common reason is lack of a professional cover letter and/or resume. If your documents contain spelling or grammatical errors, or improper use of words, it can cost you an opportunity to an interview and, potentially, a job. Employers view linguistic mistakes in documents and e-mail, for that matter, as unprofessional. Don’t leave a poor first impression.
Avoid making mistakes that can be easily corrected on your cover letter and resume by carefully proofreading the documents several times before submitting them. While spelling and grammar check through software can help, you are on your own when it comes to syntax – the relationship between words that determine their order in sentences. Another tricky area is homonyms – words that may sound or spell the same. A software program will not know the difference between homonyms, so watch out for these common errors:
Affect – Effect
These two words can trip up even the best of writers. Pronounced almost the same, the difference is in the first letter. Make sure you know the difference between this set of homonyms.
“My business networking efforts directly affect the company’s performance for the quarter.”
“The effect of my networking efforts helped the company raise double the amount of funds over the previous year.”
Discreet – Discrete
When spoken, the listener interprets which words a speaker means. However, in writing, you must make the correct word choices. Make sure you know the difference between this set of homonyms.
“We are discreet in the manner in which we handle confidential documents.”
“The company has a discrete method for identifying sales leads.”
Its – It’s
These three letters put together can form one word or two words simply by the break of an apostrophe. The two words have separate meanings, but we can easily make a mistake by misplacing the apostrophe. Make sure you know the difference between this set of homonyms.
“Increased its department size by 50 percent.”
“It is [or It’s] the first product of its kind to enter the market.”
Than – Then
One word is used to express “difference” and the other word can mean “followed by,” but they both sound the same. Take care in your writing to distinguish which is the proper word to use. Make sure you know the difference between this set of homonyms.
“Increased sales by more than 50 percent in the second year of the product’s launch.”
“Started in an entry level position and then advanced to a managerial position in two years.”
Their – There – They’re
The words all sound the same, don’t they? But we all know they do not mean the same. It is easy to get caught up in typing the incorrect word as we process our thoughts and set them free for our fingers to do the typing. Make sure you know the difference between this set of homonyms.
“Secured their standing on the market by… ”
“There are 100 employees at the company.”
“They are [or they’re] the top three marketers of… ”
Verses – Versus
Unless you are a song writer or literary writer, you are not likely to use the word “verses,” but it can easily get mixed up in the mist of things when you mean to write “versus.” Make sure you know the difference between this set of homonyms.
“I wrote the first verse to the song.”
“My project lead to savings of 60 percent, versus the potential loss of… ”
Your – You’re
Distractions can be the cause of mistakes where we use the word “your” instead of “you’re.” The two words sound the same but the latter refers to two words – “you are.” Make sure you know the difference between this set of homonyms.
“I am interested in your job posting on… ”
“You are [or you’re] going to see a link below to my writing samples.
There are a number of other homonyms to watch out for when proofreading your documents to submit to an employer, such as “principal” or “principle” and “incite” or “insight.” Your ability to write a professional and error-free cover letter and resume is part of the basis for an employer to want to follow up with you. Even if you have the specific qualifications to meet what the employer is looking for, poor proofreading of your documents can cost you.