Spelling Errors Send Red Flags To Employers

misspelled words on resumes and cover lettersBy Justin Thompson, The Work Buzz

Really, I had the simplest of intentions. By sending out a link to The Oatmeal's classic graphic of "10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling" as a reminder to job seekers everywhere that a lot is two words, I opened a vortex of commonly misused or misspelled words that drive employers crazy when they see them in résumés, cover letters, correspondence and even social media updates. But it wasn't only employers who were miffed at these common blunders – job seekers too were disappointed in their peers. When I polled our Twitter and Facebook fans, they gave me an onslaught of other words that they found were on the list of common offenders. Twitter user @XuDannyO added that he sees people who don't know the difference between "ensure" and "insure." His great example being, "'I insure customer satisfaction.' Really? You took out an insurance policy on that?"

Other unforgivable mistakes, according to our Facebook comments, included:

  • No and know
  • Whole and hole
  • Receive
  • Separate
  • Beautiful
  • Appreciate
  • Restaurant
  • Smelled and smelt
  • Leaned and leant and lend
  • Form and from
  • While and whilst
  • Definitely vs defiantly (people don't realize these are two different words with two different meanings)
  • Apart and a part
  • To, too, two
  • Your and you're

Teresa Z. added, "The problem is people rely on spell check too often and don't realize that if the word is spelled correctly but used in the wrong context, spell check won't always pick it up. They need to use the 'eyeball' method." She's right – you need to proofread your work, especially if you are sending out a résumé and cover letter in hopes of competing for a job. One of the most common typos seen by Heidi F. is "you" instead of "your." So in your cover letter, if you write "I'm the best candidate for you marketing needs," then you probably aren't going to get the call to come in for the interview. I'll admit it – I have had consistent trouble with the word sandwich throughout my entire life. I'm not sure why because I've eaten enough of them that I should be spelling the word correctly.

It doesn't mean that you're a waste of life if you didn't win the 4th grade spelling bee or have trouble spelling today. When you take the time to proof your work and check any spellings (thank you dictionary.com) that you are uncertain about, that shows an employer attention to detail and the ability to do good work. But when you end your cover letter with "I hope to here from you," you probably won't hear from them either.

One final word on social media and status updates or tweets. Despite character limitations and the inherent creative license to make a bold statement, you still need to act and spell professionally. Consistent tweets like "IM HAVIN NO LUK IN MY JOB SERCH" aren't endearing and would probably prompt an employer to block and report you as spam. One-in-five companies are using social media to hire and 45% of companies are screening applicants by their social media profiles. If you are using social media to increase your chances of being seen and heard by potential employers, you probably need to audit your online brand image and decide whether you need to change your privacy settings, create separate accounts or clean up your online act. What steps do you take to proof your résumé or cover letters before submitting them to employers? What are some other words or phrases that you find you commonly misuse or misspell? How can we help each other catch our little mistakes?

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Examine the two words "colour" and "color". Both are correctly spelled (or spelt) in their native areas of the world, but it is not acceptable to use them interchangeably. The fact that American English is a bastardization of nearly every language in the world, coupled with the intermingling of all the different nationalities of people in every corner of the world, I have resigned myself to the fact that the English language is constantly morphing and will never be completely used correctly by anyone.

October 10 2011 at 10:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

yes brilliantly put. What are bery people? got to love this site.thanks connie.

October 05 2011 at 11:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

and for those spelling greats try these games;
1.list all the words that violate '''i before e...except after c ... or when sounded like long A, AS IN NEIGHBOR OR WEIGH....''rule taught in elementary schools...
2.is it ''dessert or desert???''';''affect or effect???"""
3.is it ''except or accept?????''; ''then or than''????
4.fill in the blanks: ''..she who is ------, is not -------!!!!'', with the appropriate words:''CHASTE, CHASED''.... [PLEASE, NO SEXISM INTENDED!!!
5.assuming ''Y''' is not a vowel, starting with a two letter-word like''by''', increase each of the uubsequent words by one letter,i.e.,list the words that contain no vowels...you should increase to at least seven letters to be a sharp shooter...
6.remember: although it is'' irresistible'' to use'' irregardless'' in speaking, the first IS correct , the second, '''irregardless'' doesn't exist...
7.THE NEIGHBORS ARE ON VACATION. ---------- in Europe for four months. Who has moved in to --------- house over ----------, and enjoying ------ own summer at ------- [the neighbors'] expense????
...fill in with: their , they're, there...Use any of the words as many times as you would like...

September 15 2011 at 2:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rayraymdphd's comment

"i" before "e," except after "c." "Either," "neither," "neighbor," and "seize'" are some exceptions, if you please.

September 21 2011 at 3:53 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The word "résumé " used properly in a resume written in English, or in an article like this one, would also raise a red flag. The accent marks should not be used.

September 15 2011 at 2:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How about there, their, and they're. And commas! Oh my gosh! So many people add commas where they have no business being. You write differently than you talk. If people pause when they talk, then they think that's where a comma should be when they write. Uh-uh. As for catching your own mistakes, perhaps read every other sentence. You know what the next sentence is because you wrote it and it's very easy to add a word that isn't even there. Or, make a list of those words that you have trouble with and, if one ends up in your writing, go back and make sure you've used the right one. I wish all teachers would give 2 grades: subject matter and English. But, some teachers themselves aren't very strong in the subject. :( Other improper word usage: it's/its.

September 15 2011 at 2:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Miss Becky

You missed lose & loose. People constantly use loose when they mean lose & vice versa.Another word that is constantly misspelled & mispronounced is nuclear. Have even heard it pronounced wrong on the nightly news ! They say nucUlar ,& for some reason,it burns me every time . It is nuclEAr...learn it ,know it & stop using it if you cannot pronounce it !

September 15 2011 at 9:28 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sprinkle

Ok, what is a one-in-five company?

September 15 2011 at 9:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As an English teacher working exclusively with Special Education high school kids, I have made it a mission to help them become better spellers and proofreaders. Some will never be good spellers, but if they can learn to read what they have written out loud, they will often catch mistakes. One thing I have started doing this year is highlighting spelling errors in the school announcements or the local newspaper, and giving them extra credit if they can tell me what the mistake is. Most of these mistakes revolve around the use of apostrophes when referring to a plural word. I see that mistake all the time, even in ads and articles out for the general public. My high school kids have a spelling test every Friday, and for some I know it has made a real difference in their writing.

September 15 2011 at 5:55 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to skyrsk8r's comment

I agree that there are so many newspapers and, yes, even school announcements that are filled with errors. School announcements and even papers teachers send home? Come on! It's pretty bad when schools send home misspelled papers. If spelling isn't your thing, find someone whose thing it is and ask to have your work proofread. Kudos to you for letting your students know these written mediums aren't perfect. The newspapers used to be. I have to question commas before the word "and" in two of your above sentences.

September 15 2011 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sevenrus's comment

Sorry, "sevenrus," but I have to question your questioning the use of commas before the word "and" in the two sentences to which you refer. If he had not used commas there, I would have called him on it. As I mentioned in my critique of his comments, the omission of commas is, possibly, the most common mistake in writing today. Well, except for the much-despis'd "u," "ur," lol," etc.

September 21 2011 at 3:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

Oh, "skyrsk8r," where do I begin? Oh - at the beginning? Well, how about at the first mistake?
"...if they can learn to read what they have written out loud...." How do they write out loud? With tricky sentences, try rearranging the wording, to make them easier to understand: "...if they can write something, then read it out loud...." - Next: "...highlighting spelling errors ...extra credit if they can tell me what the mistake is." "Errors" is plural, and "mistake" is singular. Change that to read: "...what the mistakes are." - Next: "...the use of apostrophes when referring to a plural word." It's very rare that you will find a plural word with "apostrophes." This sentence would be acceptable if you changed it to: "...when referring to plural words." - Next: "...and for some I know...." Unless you are referring to "some students I know...," add a comma: "...and for some, I know...." That will still be awkward, but not as awkward as it was.
I believe that the most common mistake I see in other people's writing is the omission of commas. The next most common error (not in your comment!) is the ubiquitous use of the plural "they," "them," or "their," instead of the gender-neutral and grammatically-acceptable "he," "him," or "his." If one insists on following some sort of factitious politically correct speech, then he should say "he or she," "him or her,: or "his or her(s)."

September 21 2011 at 3:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Ben Bowman

i see why there are many errors in the english language. there are so many different rules that controdict themselves like why do u spell birds with an i and then turn around and spell words with an o??? should it not be wirds? or bords???

September 15 2011 at 3:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Ben Bowman's comment
Connie T

controdict is mispelled, it is contradict. U is a letter, not a word, use you.

September 15 2011 at 9:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Connie T's comment

Thank you, Connie!

September 21 2011 at 3:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

Even the people in charge of hiring wouldn't catch some common grammatical errors, particularly when used in conversation. This one makes me cringe every time I hear it, yet I'll bet there are professors of English literature in Ivy-league universities who also make mistakes of this type.

I am referring to those who insist on using the wrong personal pronouns after prepositions. Some examples include saying "from he and I" or " "between she and I," instead of using the correct forms, "from him and me" or "between her and me."

Maybe this peeve seems petty to some people, but it probably resonates with those who value proper usage of the English language. Incidentally, would anyone really feel comfortable saying, "from he," "for I" or "with I?"

September 15 2011 at 1:20 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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