6 Common Grammatical Mistakes to Avoid on Cover Letters

By University of Arkansas Grantham May 17, 2016

R U ready to write ur next ppr? If you find yourself writing like you’re sending a text instead of a cover letter or a research paper, you might need a few refreshers before tackling that big assignment for your online degree program or sending off your resume to a potential employer. After all, the last thing you want is to submit a job application or a reseaerch paper that you spent hours on only to have it immediately rejected for grammatical mistakes.

When writing your next cover letter, avoid using these common mistakes at all costs:

1. Prepositions – Don’t end your sentence with a preposition. It’s true that this isn’t a steadfast English language rule, but it is looked down on as sloppy and incorrect. Prepositions should link nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. Common prepositions include: about, after, among, at, before, between, but, by, during, except, for, from, in, into, like, of, on, onto, out, since, through, throughout, till, to, toward, with, within and without.

Incorrect: Where’s Abby Lee at? (By the way, if you haven’t seen Dance Moms you’re missing out, my friend!)
Correct: Where’s Abby Lee? Or Abby Lee is where?

Incorrect: Where’s my Ni-Ni at1? (By the way, if you haven’t seen Toddlers & Tiaras you’re missing out, Honey Boo-Boo Child!2)
Correct: Where’s my Ni-Ni? Or My Ni-Ni is where?

2. Avoid Repetition – Try to avoid using the same word more than once in a sentence unless you’re emphasizing something. For example, it’s OK to say, “I really, really need a cup of coffee.” Don’t say, “What is my PIN number?” PIN stands for personal identification number, so by saying “PIN number” you’re actually saying, “personal identification number number.” Awkward!

Incorrect: Girls are made of sugar and spice and etc.
Correct: Girls are made of sugar and spice, etc. Et cetera means “and so forth”, so what you were saying before is “… and spice and so forth.”

3. Comma Use #1 – It’s wrong to use a comma to combine two independent clauses; this is also known as a comma splice.  (Note how we used the semi-colon there instead.) Luckily, there are a few ways to correct this issue.

Incorrect: I just climbed Hospital Hill, it’s really steep.
Correct: I just climbed Hospital Hill. It’s really steep.
Correct: I just climbed Hospital Hill; it's really steep.
Correct: I just climbed Hospital Hill, and it’s really steep.

4. Comma Use #2 – Don’t forget a comma after an introductory word or phrase. A small pause is almost always needed.

Incorrect: Once upon a time there was a klutz named Lindsey who fell down a lot.
Correct: Once upon a time, there was a klutz named Lindsey who fell down a lot.

5. Punctuation with Quotations – When writing a sentence, punctuation can be used inside or outside of a quote. This is determined by whether it is or isn’t a part of the quotation.

Incorrect: Jo asked, “Will you get me a two Splenda latte”?
Correct:  Jo asked, “Will you get me a two Splenda latte?” The question mark goes inside of the quotation marks because the quote itself was a question.
Incorrect: Did Jess say, “I’m so excited?”
Correct: Did Jess say, “I’m so excited”? In this case, the question mark should be outside of the quotation marks because the quote itself wasn’t a question.

6. Its vs. It’s – Knowing when to use “its” versus “it’s” can be confusing. The easiest thing to remember is that “its” is a possessive pronoun, and “it’s” is the conjunction for “it is”.

Incorrect: Its my birthday tomorrow.
Correct: It’s my birthday tomorrow.
Incorrect: A llama is known for it’s ability to spit when it feels threatened.
Correct: A llama is known for its ability to spit when it feels threatened.

By following these simple rules, you can make sure your cover letters are polished and ready to stand out from the rest.

Also, please, please, please study up on the difference between “there, their and they’re” and “your and you’re”. Whenever I see these words misused I want to scream and kick the nearest thing … which if I’m reading your job application would happen to be you.

Click here for more (humorous) grammar tips and tricks.

To learn more about writing well, sign up for an online course.

About the Author

University of Arkansas Grantham
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