Don’t suffer the mistake of incorrect word usage on your resume!

0076-everyday-wordsToo often, I’m reading documents (and sadly, articles on-line); resumes, cover letters and/or college essays, seeing some confusion around some of the issues of proper word usage. Commonly, the mistakes I am seeing typically involve words that are similar sounding in nature, but actually different in definition and/or homonyms, words that sound the same but provide a different context in their use. These mistakes, simple oversights really, immediately reduce the credibility of said reading and, particularly, when it is in the construction of a resume/cover letter, it can be a death-knell for its chances on the author’s behalf.

For some simple clarity and an attempt to help those in the midst of constructing some important writings, I have outlined some examples below that can help your writing make a positive statement!

There are more, many more in fact, to consider, this really just being a primer to get one thinking about grammar when making a written presentation when it counts!

Too, to and two – Sure, they all sound the same, but they are different! “Too” is used when you are including something or someone. For example, “I would like one too.” “May I come too?” If you can substitute the word ‘also,’ then ‘too’ is the right option. “To” tends to be a destination or an action. “I’m going TO the park.” “I need TO get the dog.” Finally, “two” is numerically relevant. “I have TWO dollars with me.” “I need TWO hundred pieces of paper. Easy rule of thumb, if it’s inclusive; “too.” If it’s a destination or action; “to.” If it’s quantifiable; “two.”

Till and ‘til – The word “Till” can be used as a transitive verb or a noun. “I need to TILL the garden” and “put the cash in the TILL” are examples. Whereas “’til” is a truncated or shortened substitute for ‘until.’ If meant to say ‘until’ and shortening, then it is “’til.”

Adverse and averse – Adverse meaning harmful or unfavorable: “Adverse weather conditions canceled the trip.” Averse refers to feelings of dislike or opposition: “I was averse to the idea of paying $400 for a ticket to see U2!”

Affect and effect – Affect is a word of influence: “Aaron’s inclusion in the soccer match can affect the team’s performance.” Effect means to accomplish something or an outcome: “Aaron’s goal was effective in securing the win.” Use effect if you’re making it happen, and affect if you’re having an impact on something that someone else is trying to make happen.

Bring and take – Both have to do with objects you move or carry with the difference being in the point of reference. For example, you “bring” things here and you “take” them there. You ask something to be brought to you. You ask someone to take something to someone or somewhere else.

Compliment and complement – “Compliment” means to say something nice to someone as in ‘pay them a compliment.’ “Complement” means to add to, enhance, improve, complete, or bring close to perfection.

Criterion and criteria – One is “criterion,” two or more is “criteria.” Pretty simple in that the former is in the singular and the latter, plural.

Discreet and discrete – “Discreet” meaning careful, cautious and/or showing good judgment while “discrete” means individual, separate, or distinct.

Elicit and illicit – “Elicit” means to draw out or coax whereas “Illicit” means illegal or unlawful.

Farther and further – “Farther” involves a physical distance whereas “further” involves a figurative distance or goal to be met.

Fewer and less – Use “fewer” when referring to items you can count or quantify, like fewer hours or fewer dollars. Use “less” when referring to items you aren’t necessarily quantifying as in less ability or less time.

Imply and infer – The speaker or writer “implies,” which means to suggest. The listener or reader “infers,” which means to deduce. Whether correctly or not is another issue.

Insure and ensure – This one’s easy. “Insure” refers to insurance. “Ensure” means to make sure.

Regardless and irregardless – Simple here too. “Regardless” means without regard or respect to/for something. “Irregardless is NOT a word but, sadly, has started to appear in some dictionaries as a slang mis-usage of ‘regardless.’ “Irregardless” has, wrongly, become an amalgam of “regardless” and “irrespective.” One can pretty much use regardless or irrespective synonymously, but “irregardless” just doesn’t cut it! For those on the receiving end, it can really cloud their impression of your speaking/writing ability.

Precede and proceed – “Precede” means to come before. “Proceed” means to begin or continue.

Principle and principal – A “principle” is a fundamental. “Principal” means primary or of first importance.

It’s and its – “It’s” is the contraction of ‘it is.’ If you are using the apostrophe, that means that you could substitute ‘it is’ appropriately and it isn’t in any ownership. Whereas “its” typically DOES mean ownership, for example “its color is blue.”

They’re, there and their – All sounding exactly the same but quite different in context. “They’re” is the contraction for ‘they are.’ “There” is a destination or an action. “Their” refers to ownership. Here’s an example of all three in the same (rough) sentence; ‘we are hoping “they’re” home early as we planned on meeting “there,” so they can show us “their” new house in the woods.’

Who’s and whose – “Who’s” is a contraction of ‘who is’ whereas “whose” typically refers to ownership.

You’re and your – Once more, “you’re” is the contraction of ‘you are’ while using “your” means you own it.

There you have it! Some ideas on what to watch out for and be thinking of when you’re constructing anything it writing, but especially when putting together important documents such as a resume and cover letter for employment consideration. Proper grammar, all things being equal, can be a determining factor in your candidacy! Good luck!


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