Resume or Cover Letter: 4 Grammar/Spelling Pitfalls to Avoid

Jeff Hindenach | SalesHQ
It’s hard enough to come up with the right words to sell yourself in a resume or cover letter, without the English language tripping you up. One little mistake in spelling or grammar can ruin an entire resume or cover letter.

It’s not easy to remember all the rules of the English language. So here’s a little cheat sheet to help you avoid some common grammar and spelling errors, and make your writing clean and concise.

Multiple Versions of Words

Since these words sound exactly the same, everyone has made these mistakes while writing, and spell-check is no help since they are proper words. When you go back to edit, pay special attention to which version of the word you are using.

  • There, Their and They’re: “There” refers to a place. “Their” is the possessive of “they.” “They’re” is a contraction of “they” and “are.”
  • Then and Than: “Then” is used to show chronology. (We went to lunch, then to the movies.) “Than” is used to show comparison. (The rabbit is faster than the turtle.)
  • Too, To and Two: “Too” means in addition or as well. (Jim is coming, too.) “To” is a preposition that indicates approach and arrival, motion made in the direction of a place or thing. “Two” is the written version of the number 2.
  • Here and Hear: “Here” refers to a place. (I am here.) “Hear” refers to the act of listening. (I can hear the music.)
  • Its and It’s: “Its” is used as the possessive of it. “It’s” is a contraction of it and is.
  • Except and Accept: “Except” means to exclude. (Everyone except Terry can come.) “Accept” means to receive. (I accepted his invitation.)
  • Affect and Effect: “Affect” means to influence. (The layoff affected his mood.) “Effect” refers to a result. (The effect of drinking on the liver is damaging.)

Bad Grammar

Regardless of what career path you’re on, basic grammar is expected of every job candidate. Don’t get caught in the trap of these simple grammar mistakes.

  • Either/or and neither/nor: Remember to always use the parallel conjunction when using either or neither. (e.g. Neither Joe nor Paul are going. Either John or Michael can be a substitute.)
  • Run-on sentences: Two independent thoughts should be separated by a period, semicolon or conjunction. No exceptions.
  • Dangling participles: Make sure that it is clear which noun the phrase is supposed to modify. (Wrong: After crying for hours, the mechanical swing finally put the baby to sleep. Correct: The baby was crying for hours before the swing put her to sleep.)
  • Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve: Don’t use “of” in place of the contraction ‘ve. (e.g. should of.) Just remember each of these is a contraction of the word have.
  • Compound modifiers: Use a hyphen when compound modifiers precede a noun. (e.g. fast-paced curriculum) Do not use a hyphen for compound modifiers after the noun or following an adverb.
  • A lot: A lot is two words. Every time.
  • Split infinitives: This is one of the most common grammatical mistakes. Do not insert adverbs in between “to” and the verb. (Wrong: to swiftly run. Correct: to run swiftly.)

Changing Tenses

Switching tenses in the middle of a resume or cover letter can be confusing to the reader. But it is one of the most confusing grammar situations when dealing with resumes and cover letters. Since you are (usually) still employed at your current job, you use the present tense to describe it, but switch to the past tense to describe former jobs. Here are a few common tips to help deal with tense-switching situations.

  • Use the present tense when referring to accomplishments that are ongoing.
  • Use the past tense (ending in –ed) when referring to accomplishments that you have completed.
  • Never change tenses in the middle of a sentence. Break the idea into smaller sentences if needed.
  • Avoid starting sentences with –ing verbs.
  • Avoid perfect and progressive tenses when talking about accomplishments.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Unnecessary Phrases

You only have so much room to sell yourself in a resume or cover letter, so why clutter it with unnecessary phrases. Many use these phrases to emphasize their point, but in the end, it just complicates the sentence. Avoid these commonly-used extraneous phrases.

It goes without saying: If it goes without saying, there is no point in saying it.
I will say this: You are already saying it, there is no need to announce that fact.
Exactly the same: If two things are the same, they are already exactly the same.
Each and every: Every doesn’t add anything to this phrase, just use each.
As a matter of fact: If you are stating a fact, you don’t need this phrase.
As far as I’m concerned: If you are stating your opinion, you don’t need to preface it with this phrase. It will speak for itself.
For the most part: If you are making a generalized statement, most is already implied.
In a manner of speaking: This phrase is useless since anything you write is a manner of speaking.
What I mean to say is: If you have properly stated your case, there should be no reason to point out the meaning of your writing.

Cold Calling 2.0 is Really About Warm Calling

By Jeb Brooks, The Brooks Group
I was on LinkedIn the other day, and came across a question about whether Sales 2.0 has killed Cold Calling.

I decided to share my answer with our blog readers, too.

To me, a cold call has three basic elements:

  1. You have never spoken to the individual you’re calling.
  2. They’re not expecting your call.
  3. They didn’t request for you to contact them through some form of marketing material like a website or a newsletter.

Strategic activities like permission-based marketing, speaking, networking, etc., are much better uses of time than making unsolicited phone calls. Those types of activities involve building relationships that cause prospects to call, which means there’s no need for cold calls.

However, if those activities aren’t working for you, there are two things you can do.

  1. Rethink your strategies.
  2. Buckle down and make the calls to fill the pipeline.

Now, here’s where I really disagree with most sales managers who just don’t “get it.” It’s NOT about enforcing a call number on your reps and thinking that the more they call, the more they sell. It is about making sure you’re getting quality calls. Period. Make sure your salespeople are spending time on the phone with prospects who are most likely to buy.

When I hear someone say to a rep that . . .

“You need to up your number of calls by 50 a week”

. . . I know I’m listening to an uninformed manager who lacks real business savvy. Managers need to encourage productive calls and the right activities in order to drive the best results.

A year ago, I started working with a client with that flawed mentality I just described. The client was struggling to stay afloat. Sure, sales were being made, but turnover was too high. The business costs were astronomical. Reps had to make 325 calls a week by pounding it out on the phone. A year later, armed with a new strategy, they have increased sales by 60%. In fact, they just won their largest-ever deal. How? They’re making smarter calls. And, reps only have to make about 100 calls per week now!

Warm calls are always better than cold ones. Here’s the approach we’ve helped some of our clients implement:

  1. Segment your most profitable clients and find out exactly why they bought from you, who made the decision, how each sale was won, etc. This provides a robust amount of information and helps you craft a compelling story.
  2. Research your markets and identify those prospects you want to target first, second, third, etc.
  3. Think about other segments you haven’t focused on to see how much time should be spent in those segments.
  4. Compile a list with the names and contact information for potential decision makers.
  5. Craft a linked, sequential campaign with specific steps.
  6. Send handwritten notes to the people on your list to introduce yourself and let them know you’ll be providing them with some valuable information over the next few weeks.
  7. A couple of days later, either by email or “snail” mail, send a valuable whitepaper, or other piece of information that has nothing to do with whatever product or service you’re selling.
  8. With each touch, subtly invite the prospect to get in touch with you if they’re interested in learning more.
  9. After the third touch, make a phone call (the “cold” call that’s actually “warm”). The good news about this call is that you’ll have talking points and specific objectives to assist you in arranging a meeting.
  10. If the call goes to VM, leave a message and follow-up with an email.
    Continue with two or more touches.
  11. Make another call. When you speak with the prospect, have a friendly business-oriented conversation.

I think you probably get the picture. This approach makes phone calls far more effective and allows for better, richer conversations. Salespeople will be talking with qualified prospects who have seen the value they offer rather than a name on a piece of paper.

If at some point, it’s determined that the salesperson can’t help the prospect, it’s important to recommend someone who can. If the prospect is willing, place them on a newsletter list for a nurturing campaign so when the time is right, the conversation can be revisited in the future. We all have to eat a year from now, too!