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3 Ways to Avoid Grammar Gaffes that Could Ruin Your Resume

Your tie is straight and your hair is neat. You’ve practiced that perfect handshake. You’re more than ready to dazzle a potential employer…but none of that matters if you haven’t yet gotten the call for an interview.

Remember: it’s not only your experience or skills that will make or break your application; in many cases, it’s the grammar on your resume.

Your resume is the first thing about you a potential employer sees—and even though your skills and past experience will be carefully evaluated, so will your professionalism. One of the fastest ways for a potential employer to get a sense of your professional character is the spelling, grammar and punctuation on your resume. A resume without typos can mean the difference between being called in for an interview or being passed over for another candidate.

More than two-thirds of all office jobs require a significant amount of writing, making written communication a key consideration in hiring. The bottom line is that employers need to be totally sure you’re able to fire off emails, reports and other documents quickly and flawlessly—and your resume is an effective measuring stick.

Although that seems obvious to many job seekers, a recent Grammarly study found the average candidate makes up to six spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes in his or her resume. Six! With that many errors in a document meant to showcase your talents, imagine how many mistakes might end up in an email or report.

Here are a few steps to ensure your writing will not scare off potential employers:

1. Use Spell Check

Seriously. When you stare at your resume for too long, simple mistakes (such as spelling “and” as “adn”) can go unnoticed. Only contextual spell checkers like Grammarly (full disclosure: that’s where I work) account for words that are spelled correctly but not in context. Examples include confusion between “your” and “you’re” and “then” and “than.”

2. Review Your Grammar

Linguists and writers consistently argue about the specific rules related to proper use of grammar. And, although “grammar” is a pretty broad term, for the purposes of your resume and job search, there is only one true metric that potential employers consider as they look to decipher the grammar in your resume: does this make sense?

When talking about past work experience, consistently use verbs in the past tense. Job seekers who talk about a current position should use the present tense (“lead” versus “led,” etc.). Makes sense, right?

Use a thesaurus to find words with the same meaning so you don’t sound like a broken record. A wider vocabulary shows your potential employer you are creative and resourceful, while “I am a dedicated person who is dedicated to my job” does not. It just makes sense!

Read your writing aloud when proofreading. You will catch errors you might miss otherwise. You will also notice if your sentences make sense or sound odd, which is something spelling and grammar checkers cannot tell you.

3. Use Consistent Formatting

Choose a format, and stick with it! Having bullet points in one section of a resume and numbers in the next is distracting. Make sure all your fonts are the same type, size and color (which should always be black). Review your resume or document for general uniformity, and if one section stands out, tweak it to match the rest.

Checking for all these seemingly minor errors might make you cringe, but many resources online can help. Websites such as Words, Answers and Handbook are just a few of the online resources you can use to catch mistakes and improve your writing.

Good resume writing can help you land that dream job interview—and, once that’s in order, you can take advantage of that perfect handshake.

Make sense?

Brad Hoover joined Grammarly as CEO in 2011 to help perfect written English.


  1. These are all great tips on how to make sure your resume is properly proofread before sending it out. Nothing will kill your chances with a great employer faster than having a typo on your resume. While getting a fresh set of eyes to read over your resume is a great idea, you might also want to consider recording a video resume. The benefit of a video resume is that you can show off your personality and communication skills to employers. Plus, no typos possible!

  2. These best practice habits are applicable for our Westwood College students in the classroom as well. Social media, text messaging and other quick forms of communication tend to make us all move too fast, but slowing down to ensure content is high-quality is critical for getting good grades, earning respect among instructors, peers and potential employers. Great piece!

  3. The much-abused “words-with-the-same-meaning” rule is outdated. Certainly, “I’m a dedicated person who’s dedicated to my job,” is a ridiculous sentence. It would also be a bad sentence with just a word replacement. You don’t need to “write” in one role and “produce” in another and “generate” in another unless the actual work tasks were different.

  4. Spell check is a must; however, you also need a human to proof it for you as some typos are words (not the word you intended, but words nonetheless) and won’t get picked up by spell check.

  5. Great points and very essential. I would, however, like to take the discussion a little further. It’s easy to think you’ve got it all figured out and even more easy to assume that your current documents are correct since you also assumed your last documents ones were correct. I made this mistake when an employer asked for my resume. I sent them my coverletter and resume only to find out that I somehow save one file over the other. (File name said resume, document was actually my coverletter) It turned out that I had sent my last several applications with double coverletter and no actual resume… not cool and not professional. Always check ALL your documents, EVERY TIME. Just because you “think” it is right, doesn’t guarantee that it is.

  6. I used to spend every hour of every workday screening job applications. The advice presented in this article is necessary but obvious to all but the most oblivious. Here’s the thing about grammatical mistakes: since Word’s ‘grammar checker’ is dismal, folks need to recognize that they have made some grammatical mistake before they can correct it. Short of poring over guides to grammar and style, it’s probably best to reference lists of common grammatical errors. I recently posted such a list on my website:

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  8. This is an informative article for those who are unemployed and ready to revise their resume, these 3 pointers of the article are very essential in basic writing, your resume will get easily notice. I may suggest to those fellas who are in need of competitive resume is to find a friend who has a wide or long of job experienced, those people know what the best or relevant keywords for your resume, the word “learned” will become “developed and utilized”.

    marquette university.

  9. Ann M

    At the career center at my school/University, I have been advised to always use past tense to describe the work I did. So, sometimes (besides the grammar mistakes) resume formatting can be based on the employer/employee preference. We, job applicants, just need to hope our choices line up with the person who is hiring.

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