Common grammar mistakes to avoid on your CV

Let’s face it, first impressions count…

And when it comes to a job application, a well-written and mistake free CV is vital if you want to sell yourself effectively. In other words, even the person reading it isn’t quite as pedantic about their punctuation – a missed apostrophe or simple spelling mistake can often spell the end of your chances.

To help you stand out for all the right reasons, here’s how to tackle the most common (and all-too-often glaring) grammatical errors:



Your – Relating to/owned by you (‘your blog’, ‘your job’, ‘your delightful suburban semi-detached abode’).

You’re – You are.

When it comes to the commonly confused ‘your’ and ‘you’re’, think before you write.

Even if you’re fully aware of how they differ, writing at speed can often cause you to miss of letters by accident. And unfortunately, most spellcheckers won’t underline ‘your’ as a misspelled word – even if it’s used in the wrong context.

Possible CV Example:

Thank you for your consideration.

I am aware that you’re currently looking to fill the position of Sales Associate.  

What not to do on your CV



Its – Not it is.

It’s – It is.

When reading back over your (see what we did there?) CV, always check your apostrophes, especially when it comes to the its/it’s rule.

The simplest test is to read the sentence out loud, replacing both uses with ‘it is’ as you read.

If it makes no sense, it definitely doesn’t need an apostrophe.

Possible CV Example:

When the company reviewed its social media strategy, the changes I instigated had a positive impact.

I enjoy correcting people’s spelling mistakes. It’s something that gives me a great sense of superiority.

What recruiters are really looking for in your CV



There – Used when referring to a place or object (whether physical or abstract).

Their – When something belongs to them.

They’re – They are.

The there/their/they’re paradox is probably the most common grammatical issue to go against a candidate’s CV. Basically, as there are three possible options, there are two other ways of getting it wrong (motivational speech on standby).

If you’re not sure of this rule, learn it. It will come up daily.

Possible CV Example:

Whilst working there, I learned a lot.

Unfortunately, their decision to downsize meant that I lost my job.

They’re really going to regret that decision. Trust me.



Affect – To influence something

Effect – The result of something

The majority of the time, affect is used as a verb, and effect as a noun – although it’s worth noting that effect can sometimes be used as a verb.

However, as opposed to the pesky ‘i before e, except after c’ rule (don’t even get us started), most of the time this one sticks.

Possible CV Example:

Taking a Project Management course had a major effect on my productivity levels.

Taking a PRINCE2® course is positively affecting my time management skills and knowledge of key project management practices.  


Other grammatical errors to avoid: loose/lose, learned/learnt, im/I’m, i.e./e.g., to/too, LOLZ


Final thoughts

  • Don’t rush it. A day spent on your CV is better than six months of waiting for a reply.
  • Never rely solely on spellcheck. Although it will pick up some errors, it often misses certain grammatical mistakes.
  • Make sure you’re reading your CV thoroughly, focusing on grammar, spelling, and punctuation. A quick skim read might feel like enough, but it won’t allow you to spot small mistakes.
  • Always get someone to proofread your CV when you’ve finished. Something which makes sense to you may not make sense to the person reading it.
  • If in doubt, avoid abbreviations in general. Not only will you cut down on mistakes, you’ll also come across more professional.

What words should I use on my CV?

How to write a CV

Need more CV advice?

It takes an employer just seven seconds to save or reject a job applicant’s CV. This means creating a succinct CV is absolutely vital if you want to land that all-important interview.

To find out how to make your CV stand out from the crowd, buy James Reed’s new book: The 7 Second CV: How to Land the Interview.



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7 comments on “Common grammar mistakes to avoid on your CV

  1. truth_without_bias - March 16, 2017 at 19:46

    ‘Even if you’re fully aware of how they differ, writing at speed can often cause you to miss of letters by accident’… Hmmm, yes! ‘of’ should be ‘off’ 😉

  2. Michael Cheary - March 17, 2017 at 09:57

    Glad you got the joke 😉

  3. Leigh Hughes - March 23, 2017 at 18:53

    Sadly, it doesn’t really make any difference, because most of the jumped-up barrow boys who work in recruitment are incapable of telling the difference between ‘your’, ‘you’re’ and a hole in the ground.

    1. Christopher Richards - March 25, 2017 at 17:08

      Sad, but true. In the same way as many interviewers for the contract/permanent position you are applying for do not understand the terms used within that job specification. Many have never actually done the job and working from a sheet of stock answers.

      In the case of litigation (my business) there are terms which are technical, even though much of the Latin has been taken out of day to day litigation, thanks to the Woolfe reforms, but still need to be used. If the interviewer doesn’t understand those terms in the context of the job they are interviewing for they are useless. Equally, and particularly with younger girls, who interview they are neither experienced enough to phrase the question properly, nor are they able to understand a complex answer to what was really a complex question as posed.

      Further with interviewers, whether male or female, particularly if it is the Department Manager or Supervisor who you would be reporting in to. Thanks the American “Hire and Fire” mentality which has been adopted in the UK, they are frightened that you as their would be sub-ordinate are going to take their job. Hence you have this “over-qualified” nonsense.

      The main problem is that employers (whether agency or direct) are not prepared to train people and expect everyone to “land on their feet running”. In accountancy alone there are about 2000 software packages, and that is before you start moving in to bespoke or versions (see below).

      Finally many of these interviewers who are in the agencies follow the job spec to the point of absurd. A good example the expectation that you are going to know their (often bespoke) software without training. In fairness not always their fault due to the end employer not giving them the correct details in the first place, or just thinking they can “but off the shelf” and that everyone should know their computing suite. As I discovered once with a company who wanted someone with a knowledge of SUN (Systems Union) software; only to find when I got there that it was actually a bespoke version.

  4. Chetan Joshi - February 14, 2019 at 19:17

    “…writing at speed can often cause you to miss of letters by accident…” Was that intentional?

  5. Chetan Joshi - February 14, 2019 at 19:19

    Wow. This discussion is old! I didn’t realise.

  6. Susan - February 18, 2019 at 11:02

    “Other grammatical errors to avoid: learned/learnt” WRONG!! Annoyingly both are correct!! From the Oxford dictionary, “These are alternative forms of the past tense and past participle of the verb learn. Both are acceptable, but learned is often used in both British English and American English, while learnt is much more common in British English than in American English”. I am English and I use ‘LEARNT’, ‘BURNT’ DREAMT, SPOILT!! I always have and always will! That’s the way these things should really be ‘SPELT’!! It is the yanks that have changed the ENGLISH language over the years so if you’re going to be dishing out CV tips please make sure your information is correct!