Harsh, but true, a spelling or grammatical error can stop you from getting a job.
Why is a little mistake such a big deal?
IT’S or ITS? Use this trick to get it right
- It’s is a contradiction, it means it is or it has. If you’re unsure, write out the full it is or it has, instead of writing it’s. But if you really want to use it’s and not sure you have the right spelling, just say the sentence out loud, using it has or it is instead of it’s. If the sentence doesn’t work, it means you should go with Its.
- Its is a possessive pronoun. The dog chased its tail.
- It’s easy to figure out which spelling to use if you speak the sentence out loud, always using it is or it was. Example: The dog chased it is tail. Well, that clearly makes no sense. So the correct spelling must be its –and not it’s. It’s (It is) that simple.
YOU’RE or YOUR? Just speak it out and you’ll never have to worry about it.
- Your is a possessive pronoun–meaning something belongs to you. For example, your resume is terrific and your ideas are the best! Other possessive pronouns are my, his, her, our, their, its.
- You’re is a contraction – it means you are. Again, say your sentence out loud, using you are instead of you’re and you will instantly know if you’re (you are) using the right spelling.
Say you’re writing a thank you note after a meeting, and you start with, You’re help was greatly appreciated. Before you send, read the You’re as You are and finish the sentence. You are help was greatly appreciated. Yikes, that’s wrong. Change to Your…and you are good to go.
There or their or they’re: This one trips almost everyone up, on occasion.
- There often refers to a place. If you can replace there with here and the sentence still makes sense, you’re using the right spelling. For example, let’s eat there (let’s eat here). There can also be a pronoun, used to introduce a sentence or a thought, as in, there is no need to worry.
- Their means belonging to them, as in it is their decision to hire you. Try reading out your sentence replacing their with our. If the sentence still makes sense, it’s the right their. Their recruiters are really good. Our recruiters are really good. (yes, they are!)
- They’re is a contraction of they are. Again, read your sentence out loud and replace they’re with they are to make sure you have the correct version. So they’re going to look for mistakes —they are going to look for mistakes.
The secret to picking the right there — here can replace there, our can replace their, and they are can replace they’re.
To versus too
To is one of the most used words in the English language. Writing to instead of too is a natural typo. Still, hiring managers report they come across this misspelling more often than would be expected for a typo.
- It’s easiest to simply remember when to use too. Too means also, so if you can replace too with also in a sentence and it makes sense, it’s the right spelling. As is, I too am applying for the position.
- Too is also used to indicate an ‘ excessive degree’. If you can replace the too with very, and the sentence can still make sense, you’ve got it right. I’m too tired, it’s too hot, I’m too hungry becomes I’m very tired, it’s very hot, I’m very hungry.
At The Bagg Group, we stress to all candidates that time spent proofreading your resume, emails, and other materials is time very well spent. Don’t count on spellcheck because it only catches words that are mispelled. It won’t always catch a “their” that should be “they’re”.
For where to send your error-free resume, check out our job board.
When you get it right, you will begin to notice how many times other people get it wrong. You may find that if you to start collecting 25 cents per mistake, they’re will be lots of quarters in you’re piggybank soon, and its easy to spot mistakes when you look for them. (Did you you spot the $1 worth of mistakes in this sentence?)
Gene Hayden, author of The Follow-Through Factor: Getting from Doubt to Done (Random House), is a career coach and writer-in-residence for The Bagg Group.