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Knowing Good Grammar is a Social Skill

Bad grammar holds back veterans in the field and those starting out alike. Penelope Truck shows how important practicing good grammar can be when looking for a new job in the following article, written Dec 8, 2018.

My friend is staying at my apartment while he job hunts in Boston. My job hunts were always done in pajamas with a jeans-and-T-shirt interview finale. Micah is in sales and his hunt starts with a trip to a clothing store.

While he hops in and out of dressing rooms becoming friends with everyone, I settle into a spot with the mannequins.

Then I say, “Micah! Hey! Did you know the most reliable way to speed up a job hunt is to have a professional rewrite your resume?”

Micah stops and looks at me. Sales guys are always attentive, even if you annoy them.

“So, not that I don’t love living with you, but I’m rewriting your resume.”

A lot of times when I rewrite a resume it’s so much better than the original that the person has to learn to talk about themselves differently. We underestimate ourselves because we’re in the thick of things when it’s our own career. A good resume rewrite makes you feel like a different, much more successful person.

Most people take a week or two to get used to talking about themselves at a higher level. Salespeople can adjust right away, which Micah did. Then he started making little changes for each job. And ruining the resume.

“Micah! Are you a total numbskull?! You can’t have a bulleted list with one bullet! It’s not a list if there’s only one thing!”

I told him he has a huge indentation where there shouldn’t be any. He thought I was crazy. He thought no one would notice.

This reminds me of when I was doing a lot of public speaking. I wore jeans. Even when I was getting paid $15K per speech, I wore jeans. Even when I was speaking to a coat-and-tie audience, I wore jeans.

My agent told me to stop wearing jeans. I told my agent my content is so good that no one notices what I wear. So he stopped booking me.

The problem is blind spots. And part of the art of making it through adult life is to learn our blind spots before they completely undermine us.

This is a good time to complain about tests we administer to ourselves. I have already published a tirade about personality tests – why nearly 50% of people get inaccurate results when they test themselves.

But another example is that the are you a sociopath tests don’t work because the ENTPs and ESTPs are always excited to test as a sociopath. They think it’s funny. So they inadvertently skew the results.

Also, when you have someone test to see if they have Asperger’s, most of the time they will say their social skills are fine. That’s because people with Asperger’s don’t know what counts as a social skill. For example, meeting deadlines, sticking with the group, saying I’m sorry. These are all social skills that people with poor social skills don’t count.

I see the phrase “appropriate attire” a lot. Well, maybe not a lot now, but I did a lot when I was 13 in the ’70s and I was receiving tons of formal bat mitzvah invitations. But anyway, that phrase doesn’t mean you have to knock it out of the park with an outfit straight from the runway. It means just look like you fit in.

The same is true with appropriate grammar. People just need to know basics. As a former copyeditor, I know that one should not capitalize a job title unless the job title comes directly before a person’s name who is doing that job. The number of people who violate this rule is so large that breaking that rule is like wearing white after Labor Day: Whatever.

But those mistakes on Micah’s resume are on the list of must-be-fixed. And, here’s a list off the top of my head of common grammar errors I see on resumes from very smart people:

Do not use jargon as a way to abbreviate because you need everyone at the prospective company to be able to read your resume.

Always abbreviate state names unless you’re a calligrapher getting paid per letter.

Don’t write Inc. on your resume unless you worked at Inc. Magazine. No one cares about the incorporation papers of the companies you worked for.

Recognize rules are flexible, but no rules are random.Put periods at the end of non-sentences. Or not. Capitalize long prepositions in a headline. Or not. Abbreviate months. Or not. But be consistent; whatever you choose, do it every time.

Maintain past tense even for a job that you are still doing. If you are writing a good resume, you are writing about a moment in time when you were great. If you are writing about something you do every day, meaning you are still doing it, then stop writing that. A resume is about accomplishments and the second you accomplish something it becomes past tense.

Give your verb an object as a way to make sure you look great. Consider the difference between Emma ate. And Emma ate something. The latter is a specific time with a specific outcome. People get hired for making a specific impact at the places they work.

Don’t use quotation marks unless you literally refer to a person who you then quote verbatim. But if you are quoting someone verbatim on your resume, delete it. What are you thinking? The only acceptable quote would be from someone who is so famous that they can just make a phone call and get you the job without you sending a resume at all.

This article is written by Penelope Trunk, who helps others find jobs and has created four start ups, including Quistic. You can find this post here.

The opinions expressed here by Penelope Trunk are their own, not those of PenelopeTrunk.com.

If you need help getting started in a new business venture, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

ABOUT GREG LEE


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