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Grammar in your CV: How (and why) to get it right

Grammar in your CV: How (and why) to get it right

How you write says a lot about you, your abilities, personality and professionalism. No matter how qualified you are, any lack of attention you pay to grammar in your CV could be your downfall.

In fact, poor grammar, typographical mistakes and incorrect or weak vocabulary could mean employers reject your job application straight away.

These days, too many good applications are let down because of simple errors. It seems that with the advent of instant messaging and social network sites, some people have forgotten the basic rules of writing professionally.

At the same time, hiring managers are sticklers for good grammar and spelling. As such, they’ll have no hesitation in making snap judgments based on a poorly written CV; meaning the best, qualified candidates can be miss out because of one small blunder.

Still not convinced? Well, here’s why it’s important to include good grammar in your CV and some top tips for getting it right.

Good grammar shows credibility

Your CV should be polished and formal. If, as a starting point, you aren’t sure how to structure it, then familiarise yourself with relevant CV templates.

Following this, be sure to proofread and edit your CV with a professional mindset. Otherwise, it’s likely to be peppered with improper grammar; and this will put it at an immediate disadvantage.

Strong writing skills and an impressive command of the English language are extremely valuable assets to have when job hunting. Conversely, bad grammar can ruin your credibility and give off an immediate negative impression.

In fact, it might expose you as a lousy communicator; or portray you as someone who is sloppy, careless and not really interested in the job.

Impeccable grammar, on the other hand, can improve your CV; it shows you’re a competent candidate who communicates well, has great attention to detail and possesses an organised mind.

It will also make your CV easier to read and, just as importantly, make you stand out from other candidates who have poor grammar.

It’s easy to check

Most platforms have spell check available, so it doesn’t take too much time or effort to get it right. However, it’s very easy to go word blind and not see your own blatant mistakes; especially if you’ve spent hours writing your CV.

For this reason, it never hurts to have another set of eyes look at your document. Ask a trusted and competent friend or colleague to carefully proofread it for you.

Grammar rules for your CV

Below are some basic rules to follow when writing your CV.

Sentence structureImproving the structure of a sentence is essential to help give it meaning. Keep it simple, focussed and ensure it contains only one clause. To make it more meaningful you should add transitional phrases to help connect it to the surrounding sentences.

Building a sentence

A complete sentence contains a group of words about a subject. Each one contains a clause (part of a sentence), starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.

  • Keep sentences as short as possible
  • Never use two words when one will do
  • Make sure that your sentence contains at least one adjective or adverb (or both)
  • Try not to repeat words unnecessarily in it
  • Use apostrophes to show ownership of something
  • Use quotation marks to show quotes
  • Insert a colon before describing a list of words

What tense should you use in your CV?

Generally speaking, you should talk about old in the past tense and your current job in the present tense.

Avoid using language and words that describe events that happened in the past. For example, in your current role you would say ‘I am responsible for XYZ’ rather than ‘I was responsible for XYZ’.

Ensure your spell check is on the right settings

Spell check helps to quickly highlight any basic errors and ensures you use the correct version of English in your CV. If you’re UK-based, make sure your spell checker is set to British rather than American English.

After all, using American words when applying for a British job might irritate the reader. Don’t fall for simple mistakes such as using ‘color’ instead of ‘colour’ etc.

Writing in the first or third person

There are no hard and fast rules for this. Whilst either is acceptable, both options have their own advantages and disadvantages.

If you do write it in the first person, try not to use the words ‘I’ or ‘me’ repeatedly. This is because firstly, it’s obvious that your CV is all about you and secondly, it can sound repetitive. Likewise, if you decide on the third person option, be sure to start a sentence with action words. For example:

  • ‘Managed a team of 10 people’
  • ‘Achieved all of the goals set for me over a period of 6 months.’

Writing in the third person tends to be more concise, effective and to the point.

Remember, your words reflect you

Although your qualifications, skills and career history might give an accurate picture of the employee you could be, how you communicate says more about the type of person you are.

For example, in a marketing role where excellent copywriting is essential, poor grammar can really dent your chances of landing the job.

In essence, a well written CV will demonstrate that you’re a hard worker who is prepared to put in the effort to apply for the job. Basically, your job application will first and foremost be judged on your grammar; now that really is something to think and write about.

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