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Of all the resume gaffes that can consign your job application to the waste paper bin, sometimes none torpedoes your chances more effectively than making errors of spelling and grammar.
Few of us can be so confident in our ability to write good English that we do not need to check our work before we let others see it. Mistakes like these do not just happen because we're unfamiliar with difficult words: blunders also come from poor keyboard skills and editing errors – for example, when cutting and pasting text.
Word processors usually offer a spellcheck facility to help a writer to monitor accuracy while typing or to go back over a piece to look for slip-ups. But it can be dangerous to depend entirely on an automated function that may not spot contextual errors or poor grammar. If you're guilty of mistakes like these, a prospective employer may question your ability to pay due attention to detail in your work.
That's why it's essential to check your resume for glitches before you send it out, whatever your skills and background. Here are five suggestions to help you produce a polished document:
- Use the spellcheck utility. This tool is very useful for picking up typos and common spelling errors as you write. But take note of the default language option that has been set in the software preferences. This may lead to confusion, for example in the differences between British and American spellings.
- Check for contextual errors. It's not unusual to mistype a word, using another word that sounds the same. Be particularly careful with commonly used words such as:
- affect / effect
- it's / its
- there / their / they're
- than / then
Even if the word does not sound the same, the spellcheck tool may not flag it up as an error if the word exists in the dictionary in its own right.
- Pay particular attention to text that has been edited. When drafting a document, it's common to cut and paste a selection of text to a new position or delete it entirely. This can easily result in words being omitted or used twice in the final sentence. Errors like these can be difficult to spot, particularly if they occur over a line break.
- Check your document in hard copy. Many people find it difficult to proofread text effectively on a computer monitor. It's a good idea to print your resume or letter and go over the paper version with a colored pencil in your hand to mark mistakes or words that need to be checked.
- Ask another person to proofread your work. A reliable friend can often spot slips that you've overlooked. A final scrutiny by a second pair of eyes is a valuable last resort.