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9 common grammar mistakes on CVs and cover letters


When applying for a new hospitality job, whether you're applying to be a barman or a restaurant manager, bad English on your CV or cover letter will all but guarantee your CV's place in the recruiter’s bin.

There’s no denying that hospitality is mostly about giving customers a fantastic experience than sitting at a desk, churning out emails from 9am to 5pm. That's usually why people choose to work in the industry.

But even if writing isn't a big part of your day job, you shouldn't let your standards of grammar, spelling and punctuation slide, especially when it comes to getting the all important first interview.

So, for those of you who don’t know your whos from your whoms and your ifs from your whethers, we’ve gathered together the most common spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes (and how to correct them) and gift wrapped them for you in a handy little article. Aren’t we good to you?

Mistake 1: Your vs. You’re

Probably the worst offender of the lot. Did you know there’s a Facebook group called 'If you don’t know the difference between 'your' and 'you're', you deserve to die'?

That’s perhaps a little harsh, but you do need to pay attention to this one, because spellcheckers will often miss it. The clue is in the apostrophe. If you use an apostrophe, it’s a contraction of the words you are. On the other hand, your means belonging or relating to you.

  • Incorrect: I will call you on Friday if your in the office.
  • Incorrect: Please find attached my CV in relation to you’re job posting on
  • Correct: Please get in touch with me at your earliest convenience.
  • Correct: Tonight, you’re waiting tables six to eleven.

Mistake 2: The evil apostrophe (again)

The apostrophe is one of the most widely misused punctuation marks in the English language. Get it wrong and you could:

  • Change the meaning of a sentence
  • Look rather stupid

The two most common misuses of the apostrophe are Its vs. It's and including an apostrophe in a plural.

Mistake 3: Its vs. It’s:

It’s quite easy to get this wrong, but a handy little trick is to replace its with his (or hers) and see if the text still makes sense.

Its is simply a genderless version of his and hers. If the sentence still makes sense, you’ve got the right one. Likewise with it’s – just replace it with it is to test its coherence.

  • Incorrect: Its easy to get a job in hospitality when you have the right CV.
  • Incorrect: A qualification won’t guarantee you a job on it’s own; you also have to have the right attitude.
  • Correct: With so many job ads, it’s not surprising that is the No. 1 choice for hospitality recruitment. 
  • Correct: A hospitality CV should impress employers as much as its owner would.

Mistake 4: Apostrophes and plurals:

This is right up there with you’re and your. You should NEVER use an apostrophe before the S in a plural, even when pluralising abbreviations like DVD or CD.

  • Incorrect: I think there may be a few typo’s on my CV.
  • Incorrect: I have different CV’s for different job applications.
  • Correct: There's no reason why you should have to include photos with CVs.

Mistake 5: Their, They’re and There

A triple minefield, this one. And we’re not even counting the possibility of spelling their wrongly – even if you manage to use it in the right context! They’re is a contraction of they are; their is possessive, meaning belonging to, and there is a location.

  • Incorrect: Their are more possible mistakes with these three words than we can list here!
  • Correct: Where are their CVs?
  • Correct: They’re over there.

Mistake 6: Accept vs. Except

You should accept the job offer, except if you don’t want it.

Mistake 7: Could’a, should’a, would’a

A mistake people often make is writing words as they sound. It’s easy to get convinced that have should be spelt of, since we say it say so quickly. But never let it creep into your writing!

Incorrect: I would of got that job interview if I hadn’t made all those spelling mistakes on my cover letter.
Correct: Yes, you would have.

Mistake 8: Loose vs. Lose

Loose is an adjective, lose is a verb: we’d all like to have a bit of loose change, but we'd hate to lose it. And you definitely wouldn’t want to lose out on a job because of poor spelling.

Mistake 9: It’s all about you (not yourself)

Saying yourself instead of a simple you smacks of trying too hard to sound clever and, to many people, will be like fingernails down a blackboard.

  • Incorrect: Will that be OK for yourself?
  • Incorrect: You have to motivate you to get all the work done.
  • Correct: You should send an email to yourself as a reminder. 
  • Correct: As I mentioned previously to you… 

These kinds of mistakes happen so often in writing, you'll be forgiven for finding it hard to tell what’s wrong and what’s right. Putting a CV and cover letter together is hard work and can take a long time. By the time you’ve finished, you’ll barely be able to see what you’ve written, let alone spot any grammar or spelling mistakes!

That's why it’s always best to leave your work alone once you’ve finished – preferably overnight – so you can look at it with a fresh pair of eyes later on. And always, always ask someone with a good grasp of English to read it over before you send it. 

Related articles:

- How to write a killer hospitality CV 
- Who's looking at you, kid?
- Should I dumb down my CV?
5 things to avoid on your hospitality CV

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