In a recent post for the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, Kyle Weins — CEO of iFixit — clearly explained why he “won’t hire people who use poor grammar.” While you may be inclined to think that he is all talk, you would be wrong. According to the post, all employees in both his companies take a grammar test when entering the company. Weins’ reasoning is that an employee’s ability to use grammar correctly is a reflection of his thinking and personal learning curve. If an employee’s grammar is poor, he or she is out — period.
While not all employers have such a black and white approach to grammar in the workplace and few will test you on it, almost all employers do make an effort to review critically all job application materials for blatant mix-ups. Here are four things you can do to ensure that, grammatically speaking, you make the cut.
1) Take your time.
Most mistakes are made by blowing through a text or project, often neglecting to proofread. When you work on any part of your application, walk away after you finish drafting. Leave it, preferably overnight. When you come back to it, you will have fresh eyes. You will be able to see many more errors and awkward phrasings than you would have been able to see if you had proofread immediately after drafting. You will also need time in order to take advantage of the other tips!
2) Study a bit.
Are you having doubts about that comma? What about the semicolon? Look it up. If you are unsure, it will not hurt to educate yourself a little or review some grammar rules. The great part about this is that you will probably only have to do it when you first start working on applications, because you will learn as you go.
There are several excellent resources for getting grammar and writing explanations online. We recommend the Grammarly Handbook, Purdue University Online Writing Lab, and Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips. If you have a grammar or writing question, you can ask our online community at Grammarly Answers.
3) Use tools.
Nowadays there are many tools that can help you improve your writing. They range from free, native tools like spelling and grammar check in your word processor to more sophisticated subscription-based writing checkers, like Grammarly.com. Any of these tools can help draw attention to potential errors in your writing, but some are better than others when it comes to error identification and error explanation.
4) Make it social.
Ask others to read your application! This is a powerful, last step when revising your writing, but it is often overlooked due to lack of time. If something is out of place or awkward, the careful eye of a friend or a family member will catch it much more readily than you would. A bonus of this step is that friends and family can check for content, not only grammar and writing, so you can tremendously enhance your application. Just be sure to give your friend enough time to look over it thoroughly, usually one to two days.
Grammar still matters in a digital age. In fact, as Weins points out in his post, it may be more relevant now because of the increased use of written media by the masses of our tech-based world. Because of this, it is critical that you can write well in a professional setting. Your application is the proof you give any potential employer — make it good.
What other tips would you add for improving grammar and writing in a job application?
Like the comma, the apostrophe wields amazing power. The talented little dot-and-tail combination (though written at the top of the line, not at the bottom like the comma) can change pronouns to verbs, tell you who owns what, replace a small handful of letters, and make plurals. It comes from the Greek words meaning to turn from or omission.
After commas, apostrophes seem to be the most misused punctuation mark; grammar vigilantes have their work cut out for them.
(Photo source: iwastesomuchtime.com)
Possessive Case of Nouns
With the addition of ’s (or sometimes just the apostrophe), a noun can change from a plain old person, place or thing to a person, place or thing that owns something.
— If the noun doesn’t end with an s, add ’s to the end of the noun.
Example: This is Mary and a dog. The dog is Mary’s; Mary is not the dog’s.
— If the noun ends with an s, add ’s OR add just the apostrophe to the end of the noun, depending on style guide preference.
Examples: Where is Jess’ book bag?
My parents’ house is a lovely old one.
— If you have a compound noun, change only the last one to the possessive.
Example: Mike and Amanda’s new loft apartment is really neat.
— If the possessor is a building, an object, or a piece of furniture, then you don’t need to add an apostrophe to show possession.
Example: The hotel’s room –> the hotel room
Contractions and Omissions
Apostrophes can show an omission of letters, whether as part of a contraction or when showing dialect or accent.
Examples: I’m = I am
Can’t = can not, cannot
Where’s = where is
Apostrophes and Possessive Pronouns
Possessive pronouns don’t require an apostrophe.
Examples: That book is his’. —> That book is his.
No, it’s mine’s! —> No, it’s mine!
The cat washed it’s face. = The cat washed its face. (It’s is a contraction of it is, not a possessive pronoun.)
!! Exception: Indefinite pronouns can be made possessive with an apostrophe.
Indefinite pronouns can be made possessive with the use of ’s. Indefinite pronouns are words like someone, other, and any.
Examples : One – one’s
Is this anyone’s backpack lying here on the ground?
Forming Plurals of Lower- and Upper-case Letters
When you’re trying to describe plural letters, use ’s after the letter so that it’s clearly identified as a letter, not a word. If, for instance, you write is instead of i’s, your reader will get confused between the verb and the letter i.
Example: Mind your p’s and q’s, my dear!
By: Mignon Fogarty
English can be troublesome.
It’s not wrong to split infinitives.
It’s not wrong to end a sentence with a preposition.
It’s not wrong to use “that” to refer to a person (e.g., the man that bought my car).
It’s not wrong to treat “data” as singular.
The trouble is that a lot of people believe all those things (and more) are wrong. I hear from them every time I give a radio interview, and it’s a problem I face every day when I give people advice. Do I tell them the real rule (“data” can be singular or plural) when it could get them in trouble with their boss or teacher who may be misinformed? People come to me for advice because they don’t want to get in trouble; they don’t want to be perceived as being wrong. I want to give them the answers they need, but I also don’t want to support or reinforce grammar myths.
The best solution I’ve come up with is to explain the modern, accepted positions (it’s fine to end a sentence with a preposition), but also to warn people that even though language experts say such things are fine, many people in the real world never get that far. They believe what they were taught as children and have never investigated whether those “rules” are right or wrong, or they don’t accept that language changes over time. I want my readers to know that it’s fine to split infinitives, but also to recognize that they don’t have to split infinitives and sometimes it’s safest not to.
Many people misspell common words, mix up similarly spelled words, or use the wrong form of “there”. For them, this is not a problem because we can understand what our friends and family mean to say in e-mails or other correspondence. If you are in business, however, you cannot afford to make simple mistakes. Common grammar mistakes that make you look unprofessional can cost you customers or even help put you out of business.
Here are some of the most common mistakes. If you avoid these on your website and business materials, you will stand out to potential new customers.