Professional Development

5 grammar skills you need to master for career success

Written by Kate Lopaze

No matter what field you’re in, it’s likely that any given job description calls for good communication skills. At the top of this list is making sure your writing and speaking skills are top-notch. Let’s look at some of the key grammar tips that make your conversation and resume are polished and professional.

1. Use possessives correctly.

This is one of the most frequent grammatical errors. Always take a minute to make sure you’re using the they’re and you’re contractions for they are and you are. Their and your are possessive pronouns. These mistakes are often some of the easiest to spot for a reader, and they are so common from people of all backgrounds and education levels. If this is an issue that makes you nervous, one way to avoid this is to avoid confusion by not using contractions. It’s totally fine to spell out you are.

Rule of thumb: If you’re making a contraction, you should always have an apostrophe. Possessive pronouns never have an apostrophe.

2. Don’t speak in the third person.

Sometimes we (royal we) like to be extra formal in resumes or job interviews, because we want to present ourselves as highly dignified professionals. Resist that urge. Don’t go too informal (keep it professional, always), but it is absolutely okay to say “I” or “me,” and make it personal.

Rule of thumb: You’re presenting yourself. You don’t need to hide behind the third person just to be fancy.

3. Don’t use jargon or tons of abbreviations.

Jargon is extremely popular on resumes, because you want the reader to know that you understand the ins and outs of an industry. You talk the talk, so that must mean you’re an insider, right? Not really. Instead, you run the risk of turning off readers if they don’t quite get the same terminology, or if that jargon is hyper-specific to, say, your current job. It’s always better to keep things generic. And if you do use abbreviations to save space, make sure you spell it out on the first use in your resume, cover letter, email, etc.

Rule of thumb: Simpler is better. You never know who’s reading.

4. Don’t use unnecessary capitals.

Like jargon or being overly formal, extra capitals can be a crutch when we want people to Know What We’re Talking About. You may think you’re providing emphasis that draws the reader’s eye and makes your writing easier to read, but it really just complicates things unnecessarily.

Rule of thumb: Only legitimate proper nouns (names) should have capitals.

5. Proofread everything three times.

I can’t emphasize this enough. All of us are prone to little mistakes when we write. This is especially true when you’ve written, rewritten, and edited a resume or cover letter so many times that you stop seeing what’s in it because you know it so well. That’s inevitably where the little mistakes creep in. If at all possible, get a trusted reader to review something official before you turn it in. Having an extra pair of eyes can help you spot blatant spelling or grammar errors, and can also help ensure that you’re making sense to the reader.

Rule of thumb: Do it. Then do it again.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.