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10 Common Grammar and Spelling Mistakes Grads Need To Stop

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As a self-professed grammar pedant, Lizzi Hart discusses her pet hate for basic grammar and spelling mistakes. Funnily enough you may not share the same passion, but with all the written aspects of job applications, graduates need to be more careful. So take note...

First things first, nobody is perfect; we all make mistakes. As a third year Linguistics student, even if I make a tiny grammar mistake, I will never live it down. This pressure to speak and write 'perfectly' combined with my perfectionist habits means that I will proof-read until my eyes are weeping. This even extends to Tweets, Facebook statuses and text messages (I know, it's a sad life). But the point is, students and graduates are still making tiny - but damaging - mistakes and it needs to stop.

With the prospect of that dream career just around the corner, why are we still getting the most basic things wrong? An employer is not going to be impressed when you tell them you will 'defiantly be at the interview' or if you say 'I really want to work for you're company' - just typing those made me feel nauseous. Let's run through a few examples that we all need to be wary of in our written correspondence, especially when applying for jobs.

1. Their/They're/There

It's been said time and time again, but people STILL overlook this simple difference. And because it is so simple, slipping up can make you appear less intelligent that you clearly are.

- Whose book is this? It's their book.
= it is the book owned by them.

- Where are they? They're in Spain.
= they are.

- Where did you put my book? Over there.
= the book is in that place.

2. Your/You're

Chances are, you've probably watched that Friends episode. Ross has some very wise words of wisdom regarding this particular point...

y o u r e freinds ross grammar you're vs your

- Which top do you want to borrow? Your blue one.
= the blue top that you own.

- What time does it start? 8pm, so you're going to be late.
= you are.

3. Definitely

The amount of variations I've seen in the spelling of this word is amazing. Apparently in 2009, definitely was revealed as the most difficult word to spell for native Brits (so you're not alone if you struggle with this one).

- I will defiantly be there. - Oh so you'll be there but you won't be happy about it? Right.

- I will definately be there. - Ew, gross.

- I will defnitly be there. - I might vomit.

Just like you learnt how to spell 'because' with the help of some elephants, and that 'business' is bus-i-ness, 'definitely' can be split into definite + ly because it is DEFINITE that you will be there.

4. Its/It's

I'll admit, I've always struggled to remember which one is which when it comes to this example. So here's how to remember:

- Where is it? It's over there.
= it is.

- Is your new room nice? Yeah, its walls are cream.
= the walls of the room are cream.

You wouldn't say 'it's walls are cream' because that would mean 'it is walls are cream'.

5. Quite/Quiet

With spellcheck happy to allow either of these, you just need to remember which one applies to the right situation.

- Can you turn up the music, it's too quiet.

- Can you turn down the music, it's quite loud.

6. Whose/Who's

Again, what linguists describe as homophones (words that have the same pronunciation, but different spellings and meaning) cause a lot of trouble when you translate them from spoken to written language.

With the contracted form who's, just remember that it mean 'who is', while whose is a possessive structure.

Who's coming to the party?
=who is.

Whose coat is this?
=the coat is owned by 'who'.

7. Affect/Effect

This one's a bit tricky because they are both nouns and verbs that mean slightly different things.


Affect is used when you are saying that something changed or influenced something else.

e.g. Her tiredness affected her work.

Effect is used when something is a result or a product of something/someone's actions.

e.g. The management effected a change in the pension plan.


An effect is something brought about by a cause, also: a result

e.g. The paracetamol had an immediate effect.

An affect is in reference to an emotion, but it's rarely used so you don't need to worry too much.

8. Should have/Should of

Another pet peeve of mine is when people get this mixed up. Put simply, 'should of' isn't grammatical, so try to be aware of this in written communication, especially when a potential job is up for grabs. Even though the contraction 'should've' sounds like 'should of', it's actually from 'should have', hence the spelling.

shouldnt have said that hagrid harry potter philosophers stone

e.g. You're late! Sorry, I should have/should've set my alarm earlier.

9. Genuinely/Generally

Just like the confusion with definitely and defiantly, genuinely and generally mean two very separate things.

If something is genuine, it is real and not fake. So if something genuinely happened, it really did happen and you're putting emphasis on its validity.

e.g. Was the party good? It was genuinely really good.

If something is general, it is common and not specific. So if something generally happens, it happens commonly.

e.g. Was the party good? Well her parties are generally good, but this one was not.

10. Fewer/Less

less or fewer grammar

Fewer is used when you want to refer to items that you can count.

e.g. Can I have fewer raisins please?

Less is used when you want to refer to items that you can't count, or there is no point in counting.

e.g. Can I have less attitude please?

or Can I have less money please? (not that anyone would ever say this).

lizzi hart grb author

Lizzi Hart is the Social Media & Content Manager at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau (GRB). Outside of work, she enjoys reading, music, binge-watching TV and dreaming about the dog she'll one day own.

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