By Damilola Faustino
If you’re giving your curriculum vitae a second or third read, consider this terrifying thought: Spell check won’t catch some of your biggest errors. That’s because it’s possible you’re misusing common words. These mistakes don’t just make a poor impression, they could change the message you’re trying to communicate. As you write your curriculum vitae, make sure that you’re correctly using these terms so your CV doesn’t land in the rejection pile.
Less vs. fewer
When deciding whether to use “less” or “fewer,” ask yourself: Is this countable? “Fewer” should be used only for numbered, countable things, especially people or other plural nouns. Use “less” for singular mass nouns that can’t be reasonably counted, such as “experience” or “knowledge.” You can also use “less” for numbers that are a single or total unit, which is usually paired with the word “than.”
Affect vs. Effect
“Affect” and “effect” are easy to mix up. Here’s a simple way to differentiate between the two: “Affect” is almost always a verb, whereas “effect” is usually a noun. “Affect” means “to act upon, to make a change to something.” “Effect” typically means “a change that resulted from something else acting on it.”
Assure vs. Insure vs. Ensure
“Assure” means to reassure or to give confidence in something. “Ensure” means to “make certain” and it’s considered a “power word” by some CV experts. In a CV, you’d write: “I ensured customer satisfaction with a 30-day money-back guarantee, as evidenced by a 40 percent growth in sales.” “Insure” can sometimes be used interchangeably with ensure.
Elicit vs. Illicit
These words may sound alike, but they have very different meanings. “Elicit” is a verb, meaning “to draw out or call forth a response or reaction.” For example: “I implemented an unlimited vacation policy, eliciting a 30-percent jump in employee retainment across a two-year span.” “Illicit” is an adjective, meaning “illegal or socially disapproved of.” As in, “I designed a program to scan online comments for illicit language.”
Further vs. Farther
Although they’re often used interchangeably, “further” and “farther” technically have different meanings. Use “farther” when talking physical distance. For example, “I left my previous job because I moved farther away.” “Further” should be used for figurative distance. For instance, on a CV you might write that you “furthered the team’s skill development.”
Perspective vs. Prospective
Perspective relates to a particular way of looking or thinking about something. For example: “My unique background and perspective helped the team sell products to niche markets, boosting sales by 50 percent.” Prospective means “expected in the future.” A sample resume phrase could read: “Based on the prospective market analysis, I invested $40,000 into digital technologies, increasing productivity by 25 percent.”
Complementary vs. Complimentary
Complementary describes things that complete one another and enhance something’s qualities. On a CV, one might say, “My complementary business and computer science degrees helped me find cost-effective ways to build new tech gadgets, saving the company more than $75,000 in fees.” Complimentary derives from the adjective compliment and describes things that convey praise or admiration.
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