According to recent studies in the UK, ninety-four out of every hundred resumes contain some kind of error. And we’re not talking about the kind of error where you say that you left a job due to “differences of opinion” when the truth is that you were asked to leave after you, in an effort to get your boss to see things your way, put your foot through his iPad. The errors that we’re talking about have more to do with spelling, grammar, and the inability to realize when you forgot to type a word. For example, one person wrote that, in his previous job, he was “responsible for dissatisfied customers,” while another person said he was “highly adept at multi-tasting.” And in one instance, some poor woman who didn’t know how to use commas wrote, “My interests include cooking dogs and interesting people.” (I hope she wasn’t applying for a job as a chef.)
“My interests include cooking dogs and interesting people.”
Now, granted, some of this might be attributed to the fact that the rules of spelling in England are very arbitrary in the first place, as is evidenced by the way they spell words like “centre” and “Worchester”. (Also, they think that this is a “humour” article.) But in America – where I’m from, where we spell things pretty much how they sound, there is still a pretty high percentage of error-laden resumes. And when it comes down to it, an employer is less likely to hire a secretary who claims she can type “ninty words per minnit”, or an accountant who puts his periods in the wrong. place
Now the truth is that it’s not easy to have good spelling and grammar, because every single rule has exceptions (with some exceptions). This is the excuse that we use when we don’t want to come out and admit that none of us really paid attention in school. I have first-hand experience with this, because I teach High School English, which is just like regular English, except that about 75% of the time is spent debating. My class isn’t so much about learning proper English as it is about arguing over whether or not I should be teaching English on any given day, as opposed to just preparing a lesson, which I already did; making photocopies, which I already did; coming to school, which I already did; and then sitting around the classroom while my students wander around aimlessly and schmooze, which is pretty much what they’d be doing anyway if we had class.
The truth is that if my students spent half as much time working as they do coming up with excuses not to work, I would have to prepare much longer lessons. So I guess I shouldn’t complain. Instead, I’m going to take the opportunity to impart some grammar tips, and since I teach at a Jewish school I will try to make them relevant, in an irrelevant sort of way:
1. A good way to make your writing come alive is to use interjections.
EXAMPLE: “Okay Chaim, now I’m going to interject this needle into your arm, but don’t worry Chaim, you shouldn’t feel a – YEOWTCH! I just poked myself! Ow! I don’t believe this! Now I’m going to interject you with my other hand.”
2. Use words like “etc.” when you want your audience to think that you know more than you actually do.
EXAMPLE: “Many of the nations of the world with strong economies, such as China, Israel etc., export more goods than some of the nations with weaker economies, such as, etc.”
3. It’s better not to end a sentence with a preposition, unless you have nothing else to end it with. For example, if you’re having a family over for Shabbos and they bring you a homemade kugel, it’s better not to say, “Oh, you shouldn’t of.” Instead, you should say something like, “If we would of known you were making a kugel, we wouldn’t of peeled all these potatoes with which we now have nothing to do.”
4. Be careful about misplaced modifiers.
INCORRECT: “My sister Rivkah dropped by with her new baby, who proceeded to crawl under the furniture and find some misplaced modifiers that I keep asking my kids to pick up, and she put them in her mouth.”
CORRECT: “My sister Rivkah dropped by while I was cleaning the floor with her new baby.”
5. Quotation marks may be used:
A. When quoting something that someone actually said. The general rule is that all of these quotes must begin with the word “oh”, except where you are quoting yourself, in which case you can begin with the word “listen”.
EXAMPLE 1: So I ran into Moshe, and he said, “Oh! I didn’t see you here yesterday,” so I said, “Listen, I’m here every day.”
EXAMPLE 2: So I ran into Chaim, and I said, “Listen, I didn’t see you here yesterday,” and he said, “Oh, I’m here every day.”
B. When you’re being sarcastic; especially if the other person has no idea that quotation marks mean sarcasm.
EXAMPLE: To my husband Baruch; I’m “sorry” I was so critical of the way you were “cleaning” the dishes. From now on, I will try to be more supportive whenever you “help” around the house.
BONUS: If you are talking aloud, you can make quotation marks in the air with your fingers, which is something that society usually frowns on with periods and commas. And if you’re holding a large object that you cannot easily put down, such as the heavy end of your friend’s couch, you can instead say the words, “quote unquote”. For example, you can say, “I am so glad I agreed to help you move your couch, especially since you said that it, quote unquote, will “only take five minutes” and, quote unquote, “we won’t have to do any stairs.” Then you can walk off and leave it wedged in the doorway.
C. When referring to the title of an article.
INCORRECT: I tried making yesterday’s Shabbos Recipe of the Day today, but it wasn’t as good as it was yesterday.
CORRECT: I tried making the “Shabbos Recipe of the Day” from yesterday, that I also made yesterday, today, but… You know what? Just taste this. It has “raisins” in it.
TODAY’S BONUS TIP: Despite what grammarians say, if you say “whom” enough times, it doesn’t even sound like a word anymore.