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by Vault Careers | July 27, 2016


One of the rules of resume writing is be consistent throughout. For example, if you choose to use the serial comma (a comma after the second item in a list as in "this, that, and the other thing") then make sure to use it in every instance when applicable. But what you don't want to be consistent with are misspelled and misused words. Relying on your computer's spelling and grammar check is not enough. Many words can be missed that are spelled correctly but used in the wrong context or with a completely different meaning. To that end, below are the most common resume mistakes missed by spelling and grammar check. 

1. Accept/Except

To accept is to receive something. She accepted his apology. Except is a preposition that means but or with the exception of. I would use accept, except it is not the correct word. 

2. Affect/Effect

To "affect" is to influence or change. He affected her emotions. An "effect" is the result of something, as in cause and effect. Typically, affect is a verb, and effect is noun.

3. And/Or

This usage implies three outcomes, not two. I will write a resume and/or a cover letter means that the person will either: (1) write a resume; (2) write a resume and a cover letter; or (3) write a cover letter. 

4. Assure/Ensure/Insure

To "assure" is to convince or to guarantee. The administrator assured him that his resume had been received. "Insure" means to guard against loss. I insured my car. "Ensure" means to make certain. I ensured that I insured my car. 

5. It's/Its

This is one of those cases that is an exception to the rule. While the apostrophe typically denotes a possessive, in this case, "it's" means it is, and "its" is the possessive. 

6. Their/There/They're

"Their" is a possessive; something belongs to them and it is theirs. "There" is where something is; it is over there. "They're" is where they are; they're (they are) over there. 

7. Then/Than

"Then" is when something will happen and means next or consequently. I will go to the store and then go home. "Than" indicates a difference. Chocolate is better than vanilla. 

8. To/Too/Two

"To" is a function word indicating an action or process. I want to write my resume. "Too" indicates an excessive amount of something. I am too tired to write my resume. "Two" is the number that follows one and precedes three. 

9. Utilize

"Utilized" means use. Use "use" and not utilize. 

10. Whose/Who's

"Whose" is a possessive. Whose resume is it? "Who's" means who is. Who's at the door? 

11. Your/You're

"Your" is a possessive. It is your turn. "You're" means you are. You’re correct. 

For more commonly misused words, there's a great list over at Oxford Dictionaries. Another option is to conduct an online search for "commonly confused words" and you'll  find plenty of results to choose from. And if you're still not sure about the use of a word, ask someone else to proofread your resume for you.

This post was adapted from the new Vault Guide to Resumes and Job-Hunting Skills.

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