Back-to-the-Basics: Written Communication 101
“I’m just not a writer.” Ever hear this before? Our world is full of “I’m just not a writer” people, yet there is a huge difference between being a writer and understanding how to write.
No matter your profession—whether you’re the CEO or the mail-room clerk—understanding how to write correctly is important, because proper writing demands proper grammar and punctuation. And if you understand how to write, you will inevitably improve your communication (both written and verbal). Having the ability to communicate your ideas and communicate them well is a sure ingredient for success in any field.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Writing isn’t everyone’s thing (nor should it be). Yet understanding and adhering to the basic fundamentals of written communication are two things greatly lacking among professionals today. And they are two areas folks now and in generations to come must improve upon. Why, you ask?
High unemployment and the tough job market are no surprises. Yet, did you know many job seekers are counting themselves out of the race even before they start? And most are doing this unintentionally?
According to Monster.com’s article Avoid the Top 10 Resume Mistakes, typos and grammatical errors are some of the most common pitfalls found on resumes. Recruiters and hiring managers aren’t giving some of these applicants a second glance because of poorly written resume. You may have 5+ years of experience, graduated with honors, and have a slew of references but if your resume is full of misspellings, improper grammar and incorrect punctuation, your credentials may be overshadowed. These errors tell the recruiter 1) the applicant doesn’t understand the fundamentals of writing and/or 2) was too lazy to proofread his/her resume before sending it out.
Of course everyone makes a mistake every now and then, even the best editors. Yet, when seeking a job or engaging in any type of written communication, you do not want to communicate the idea that you’re incapable of anything, and this includes proper grammar and spelling.
So, to help out with this issue, I’ve comprised a short list of the most common misspellings, grammatical and punctuation errors found in resumes (and written communications in general) today. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a two-minute course in writing—a sort of 101 “back-to-the-basics” if you will.
Misspellings and/or typos
Proofreading your work to ensure all words are spelled correctly. If you don’t know how to spell it, look it up, especially words containing the same letters. Don’t forget the age-old saying of I before E except after C.
Examples (incorrect spelling first):
Personal, personel, personell—Personnel
Many words sound the same but with different spellings and different meanings. Depending on which word you use, your sentence can say one thing when you intended for it to say another.
There, their, they’re: There is a place. Their is possessive. They’re is a contraction of the words they and are.
Incorrect: I managed there business portfolio.
Correct: I managed their business portfolio.
Two, Too, To: Two is a number(the written form, of course). Too means in addition, also, or as well. To is a preposition showing approach, arrival, and/or in the direction of.
Incorrect: I provided additional advice too ensure exceptional customer service.
Correct: I provided additional advice to ensure exceptional customer service.
Its, It’s: Its is the possessive of it, showing ownership. It’s is a contraction of it and is.
Incorrect: The company gave me it’s best offer.
Correct: The company gave me its best offer.
Your, you’re: Your is a second person possessive adjective, which describes something as belonging to you. You’re is the contraction you and are. When unsure of which to use in a sentence, say the sentence aloud with “you are” and see how it sounds.
Incorrect: I’m inquiring about you’re XYZ position.
Correct: I’m inquiring about your XYZ position.
Then, Than: Use then for one event following another. For example: The boy fell off his bike, then he cried.
Use than for comparisons. For example: My dad is shorter than my mom.
Grammar and Punctuation
- Avoid run-on sentences.
For example: While working at XYZ company I was the manager of the marketing team which led me to a promotion after three years where I was in charge of more than 150 staff members and after that I worked in the communications department for an additional six years overseeing all forms of communication for not only my department but the entire company as a whole.
The sentence above should be split into different sentences with a boatload of commas for clarity.
- A lot is two words. “Alot” is incorrect.
- i.e. (Latin for id est) means “that is.”
Incorrect: The new software boasts an array of features, i.e. mobility.
Correct: The new software boasts an array of features, i.e. it offers a variety functions.
- e.g. (Latin for exempli gratia) means “for example.”
Incorrect: I possess many skills, e.g. I am talented.
Correct: I possess many skills, e.g. SEO, branding, and editing.
- With commas in a simple series, be consistent throughout your text. You either include the final comma before “and” or you don’t. Example: compliance, software, and energy or compliance, software and energy.
- Singular vs. plural
The words someone, person, and individual are singular nouns. They, them, and people are plural nouns. Examples:
Incorrect: A worker should control their station.
Correct: A worker should control his/her station.
Also, remember that a company is an it because a company is not a person. That is for a thing and who is for a person. Example:
Incorrect: They are a great company who I enjoy working for.
Correct: It is a great company that I enjoy working for.