In a recent post for the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, Kyle Weins — CEO of iFixit — clearly explained why he “won’t hire people who use poor grammar.” While you may be inclined to think that he is all talk, you would be wrong. According to the post, all employees in both his companies take a grammar test when entering the company. Weins’ reasoning is that an employee’s ability to use grammar correctly is a reflection of his thinking and personal learning curve. If an employee’s grammar is poor, he or she is out — period.
While not all employers have such a black-and-white approach to grammar in the workplace and few will test you on it, almost all employers do make an effort to critically review all job application materials for blatant mix-ups. Here are four things you can do to ensure that, grammatically speaking, you make the cut.
1) Take your time.
Most mistakes are made by blowing through a text or project, often neglecting to proofread. When you work on any part of your application, walk away after you finish drafting. Leave it, preferably overnight. When you come back to it, you will have fresh eyes. You will be able to see many more errors and awkward phrasings than you would have been able to see if you had proofread immediately after drafting. You will also need time in order to take advantage of the other tips!
2) Study a bit.
Are you having doubts about that comma? What about the semicolon? Look it up. If you are unsure, it will not hurt to educate yourself a little or review some grammar rules. The great part about this is that you will probably only have to do it when you first start working on applications, because you will learn as you go.
There are several excellent resources for getting grammar and writing explanations online. We recommend the Grammarly Handbook, Purdue University Online Writing Lab, and Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips. If you have a grammar or writing question, you can ask our online community at Grammarly Answers.
3) Use tools.
Nowadays there are many tools that can help you improve your writing. They range from free, native tools like the spelling and grammar checker in your word processor to more sophisticated subscription-based writing checkers, like Grammarly. Any of these tools can help draw attention to potential errors in your writing, but some are better than others when it comes to error identification and error explanation.
4) Make it social.
Ask others to read your application! This is a powerful last step when revising your writing, but it is often overlooked due to lack of time. If something is out of place or awkward, the careful eye of a friend or a family member will catch it much more readily than you would. A bonus of this step is that friends and family can check for content, not only grammar and writing, so you can tremendously enhance your application. Just be sure to give your friend enough time to look over it thoroughly — usually one to two days.
Grammar still matters in the digital age. In fact, as Weins points out in his post, it may be more relevant now because of the increased use of written media by the masses of our tech-based world. Because of this, it is critical that you can write well in a professional setting. Your application is the proof you give any potential employer — make it good.
What other tips would you add for improving grammar and writing in a job application?