November 27, 2012

The Comma and Your Career

writing on laptopHow Your Writing Can Help – or Hurt – Job Prospects

Written communication is one of the most important ways that job seekers can remain competitive. A resume without typos can mean the difference between getting an interview or not. Although this may seem obvious to many job seekers, Grammarly recently found that the average candidate makes up to six spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes in his or her resume. With that many errors in a document meant to showcase one’s talents, imagine how many mistakes might end up in an email or report on the job! Fortunately, there are ways to ensure that your writing will not scare off potential employers or existing colleagues. A good place to start is triple-checking your use of common punctuation, like commas.

In light of the recent Thanksgiving holiday, the Grammarly team polled more than 1,700 Facebook fans – including job seekers and professionals – on what punctuation they are most “thankful” for in their writing. The semi-colon (13 percent), em-dash (10 percent), and period (8 percent) were top contenders; yet, overwhelmingly we learned that English writers are most thankful for the comma (45 percent).

Although writers enjoy the comma, many do not know how to use it – to their disadvantage in the job search and on the job. According to a recent review of English writers conducted by the Grammarly, comma misuse is a prevalent error. Moreover, there are many ways to misuse a comma:

  • Not including a comma before a coordinating conjunction (43 percent of all comma mistakes among Grammarly users)
  • Comma misuse in an introductory phrase (8 percent of comma mistakes)
  • Comma misuse inside a compound subject (7 percent of comma mistakes)
  • Comma misuse around interrupters (6 percent of comma mistakes)

There are around 28 different types of mistakes that English writers make related to the comma alone. However, not including a comma before a coordinating conjunction – and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet – is six times more common than any other. If you are among the writers who misuse the comma or make any number of common grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes on a regular basis, there are steps that you can take to improve.

Read your writing aloud.

A great way to find mistakes in your cover letter or other professional communication is to read the text aloud. Hearing the words you have written will help to highlight any mistakes that you may be skipping over during a silent reading. It will also provide you with a good representation of how the text sounds to others.

Use an automated proofreader to check your text.

Automated proofreaders are powerful tools that enable professionals and job seekers to check their own work and learn from mistakes, anytime and anywhere. These tools concentrate on the grammar, spelling, and punctuation of your text so that you can work more diligently on the content and style.

Ask a colleague to edit your work.

Maybe you have checked and double-checked that pesky email for your boss; and, maybe it is free of grammar mistakes. However, does it make sense contextually and stylistically? Asking a colleague to review it over before pressing “send” is a great way to get feedback on both what you are saying and how you are saying it.

High quality on-the-job, written communication provides credibility and opportunities. Strong writing skills are a foundational element of professional success, and the steps that you take to improve your writing today will benefit your career for years to come.

Read more in Resume Format

Brad Hoover is CEO of Grammarly, where he focuses on expanding Grammarly’s market-leading natural language processing (NLP) technology and team to help the world’s 2 billion+ English writers. Connect with Brad, the Grammarly team, and more than 500,000 Grammarly Facebook fans at