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Make Less Grammatical Mistakes: Read On . . .

February 16, 2018

Grammar matters. There are no two ways about it: overall, it makes a difference to hirers whether you have the ability to write correctly, or not.

 

There is one all-important, strikingly obvious, reason why:

 

It’s not that hard, and you’ve had decades to practise

 

When I read people’s CVs and find that they haven’t mastered the basics I’m left thinking one of three things:

  1. They’ve never bothered learning the basics

  2. They’ve tried and find it really hard (with a minority of people this is absolutely understandable), but then even with this self-awareness, they haven’t asked anyone to proof-read it for them

  3. They don’t really care if it’s right or not

Whichever way you look at it, it’s better to make sure your writing follows the simple rules we all sign up to when putting a formal document, like your CV, together. 

 

Here are the top three mistakes I see regularly, and which can be fixed easily.

 

 

  

 

Fewer and Less

 

Supermarkets popularised the incorrect version with their signs stating ’10 Items or Less’. They knew this was incorrect but thought that it sounded more natural to customers. Frustratingly, this has only helped to cloud the matter further.

 

This is the most common mistake in my list. I used the wrong word in this blog’s title deliberately, and LinkedIn used it wrongly on 467 million profile pages until they changed it earlier this week (weirdly). Click on the ‘Show more’ link at the bottom of the Experience section and see what it turns into. This used to say ‘Show less positions’, but now is simply ‘Show less’ which could refer to ‘information’ and is therefore now correct.

 

Use fewer if you’re referring to people or things in the plural (e.g. positions, opportunities, team members, mistakes, employees, losses).

 

Use less when you’re referring to something that can’t be counted or doesn’t have a plural (e.g. information, chance, profit, time, analysis, reporting)

 

 

Amount and Number

This follows similar rules to ‘fewer’ and ‘less’. It’s all about whether something is countable or not.

 

Use number if you’re referring to countable nouns (e.g. positions, opportunities, team members, mistakes, employees, lessons).

 

Use amount if you’re referring to uncountable noun (e.g. information, chance, profit, time, analysis, reporting)

 

 

Its or It’s

Not helped by autocorrect sometimes, this is such an easy one to get right. The key is to re-read everything you’ve written to double-check the wrong form hasn’t crept in.

 

It’s is always short for ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. (e.g. it’s good, it’s been good)

 

There is no such thing as it’s being used to say something belonged to it. (e.g. I liked its formality, grab its leg).

 

___

 

Grammar isn’t about always being strict and not allowing things to flex with the situation someone is in. It’s a living thing which changes over time.

 

Sadly, however, one of those situations, and times, is right now when you’re writing your CV. For better or worse, the rules are you have to get it right, and we’re all judged on that.

 

 

Charlie Jones

PS. I have formal experience analysing language (including complex grammar) which is all in my profile on LinkedIn.  It’s given me an annoying awareness of when people get things wrong – sorry!

 

 

 

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