Even amongst experienced
professionals, poor grammar and spelling in CVs and covering letters is
disappointingly common. It suggests to your prospective employer that
you have not paid sufficient attention to the nitty-gritty detail in
your application, and can alone be responsible for failing to reach the
interview stage for a job opening. Here are some key grammar rules to
ensure that your CV and covering letter are up to scratch.
Don’t rely solely on spellcheckers
As useful as they are, spellcheckers make people lazy. They do not nullify the need for proofreading. You’re CV shouldn’t suggest you’ll affect there company’s image poorly with bad spelling and grammar. The errors in this sentence would go unnoticed by a spellchecker, since all the words used do indeed exist. Whilst spelling isn’t everything, it takes away from your first impression if you can’t tell your personnel from your personal.
Be sparing with capital letters
Title Case Is Overused By Those Who Capitalise Every Important Word. SOME THINK THAT BLOCK CAPITALS IS EASIER FOR A RECRUITER TO READ. However, research has shown that capital letters can be more difficult to read at a glance than lowercase. On the off-chance that the recruiter reading your CV really, really cares about grammar, avoid capitalising the wrong words. It is also important to be consistent. If you capitalised Historian in one sentence for example, you must do it for all.
Pay attention to apostrophes
Whether you can distinguish its from it’s is a real demonstration of your grip on grammar. The rules are in fact quite simple, so avoid getting them wrong in your CV or covering letter. Apostrophes are used to indicate missing letters, a possessive, time or quantity.
Using the singular for individual organisations
This is one of the most common mistakes I see on CVs. It is easy to write about one company in the plural if you are thinking about the 100000s of employees that work there. But if you are only talking about one company, for example Deloitte, use the singular. If you work at Deloitte, you are part of ITS team, not THEIR team.
Keep to one voice
There is much debate about whether the first or third person is best for a CV. What is most important however, is to be consistent. If you begin talking about “MY experience”, I should not then talk about “HIS time at X”.
Pay attention to your tenses
Talk about old positions in the past tense and your current job in the present. There might be exceptions to this rule, such as if you’re talking about a past event, such as a conference that occurred in your existing job. One thing to avoid is switching between tenses in the middle of a sentence. This is not only grammatically incorrect, but is also confusing to read.
Clarify your abbreviations
Some are obvious, such as GCSE - writing out General Certificate of Secondary Education is hardly an efficient use of space. However, when using professional abbreviations, such as ECM (equality capital markets, for those unsure), write them out in full to avoid confusing recruiters with jargon. Add the abbreviations in brackets, and use it thereafter.
Avoid semi-colons if in doubt
The basic rule is that semicolons are used when a comma is not enough, but a full stop is too much. Having too many - in particular if they are in the wrong place - in your CV or covering letter be be distracting and look self-indulgent. There is no value in using them for the sake of using them, in particular if you are not 100% sure of the rules.