I’m not a stickler for spelling and grammar in everyday life.
Yes, I work in editorial, so if I were hiring, I would pay close attention to an applicant’s spelling and grammar. But in day-to-day communication, picking on people for errors in word usage, spelling, punctuation and grammar is just running interference. If I can understand what someone is trying to say, I see no need to correct them – even if they’ve (gasp!) misused a comma. It’s rude, embarrassing for the correctee, and more often than not, makes you look like a pedantic, superior know it all. Also, it derails the discussion at hand. How many times have you seen a Facebook comment thread hijacked because someone just had to point out a typo?
That being said, others are watching, and they are sticklers. They’re checking your blogs, emails and social media posts for typos and grammatical errors, so they can jump in and set you straight, demonstrating their superior knowledge.
And when it comes to resumes and cover letters, we’ve discussed many times the fact that typos and grammatical errors are among the first things that will get yours tossed in the slush pile, even if the position doesn’t require excellent grammar skills. I think this is sometimes unfair, but I’m not in charge.
We recently posted a list of seven grammar mistakes to avoid making on your application materials – lest employers think you’re dumb. Among them we covered misplaced apostrophes, the use of “there,” “they’re” and “their,” and the confusion of “its” and “it’s,” “your” and “you’re,” and “then” and “than.”
Here are five more mistakes to avoid in all your (particularly work-related) writings and communications, lest you give the impression of being less intelligent than you actually are. And two bonus errors that you probably make but that nobody notices.
- 1. Using “of” when you mean “have,” as in “I could of gotten that promotion,” or “he should of given me that promotion.”
What you mean is that you “could have gotten that promotion,” and perhaps you would have, if your grammar were better.
2. Using “loose” when you mean “lose.”
“The company was loosing money, and was a million dollars in the hole, until I came along and turned things around, putting them in the black in three weeks.”
Unfortunately, even with a story like this, your spelling mistake will overshadow your incredible accomplishment and your application will still wind up in the garbage.
3. Spelling “definitely” with an “a.”
As in, “I definately see your point.”
I don’t really understand how this happens, since everything has spellcheck these days. Blog software has spellcheck. Even Facebook has spellcheck. But perhaps we’re starting to ignore spellcheck. Regardless, it happens all the time. I see this all over the place.
One day in the fairly near future, “definately” will probably become an acceptable spelling of “definitely.” Many seem to think English spelling is set in stone, when in fact it didn’t become standardized until a few hundred years ago and will likely always be fluid. And this one is so pervasive it will inevitably stick. But that time has not yet arrived, and until then, there is no “a” in “definitely.”
4. Using “affect” when you mean “effect,” and vice versa.
Affect is a verb, effect is a noun.
Employee well-being “affects” the bottom line. Or, employee well-being has an “effect” on the bottom line.
Got it? Good.
5. Using “literally” when you mean “figuratively.”
As in, “Bob, we literally have to take the bull by the horns on this one.”
Literally means “in a literal,” not figurative or metaphorical, sense – true to fact.
Unless you plan on actually grabbing a bull’s horns, leave out the word “literally.”
And now, here are two errors you probably make that don’t make most people think you’re dumb because they make these same mistakes.
- 1. Using “and I” when you mean “and me.”
Many people just assume that “and I” is always correct. It’s not.
“Mathieu came to the meeting with Peter and I,” is wrong. “Mathieu came to the meeting with Peter and me” is right.
“Peter and me,” however, did not go to the meeting with Mathieu. “Peter and I went to the meeting with Mathieu.”
Not sure how this works? Simply remove the two words before the personal pronoun and see if the sentence makes sense.
So, if we remove “Peter and,” we are left with, “Mathieu came to the meeting with I.”
And that’s not right, is it? Therefore, you know to use “me.”
For the second example, we remove “Peter and” from the “me” version, and we are left with “Me went to the meeting with Mathieu.”
And, since I am not Tarzan, we know that I should change “me” to “I.”
How easy is that?
2. Saying you feel “badly” when you mean that you feel “bad.”
“Badly” is an adverb, and describes the manner in which something is done, while “bad” is an adjective that describes the noun itself. So, if you’re feeling “badly” it means that you aren’t very good at feeling.
You feel “bad” because you lost the account. You feel “badly” because you lost your fingers.
Probably when you were literally grabbing the bull by the horns.