Jane Whiley

Common Executive CV pitfalls - part 2

Back in June I blogged about common CV pitfalls, the importance of good grammar and how the misuse of homonyms can dumb-down even the most senior of executive CVs. For those of you who have been on tenterhooks since June waiting for the definitions of the most common misused homonyms, your wait is over!

To reiterate, homonyms are words that are similar, but have very different meanings. Using the wrong word in the wrong context can really skew the meaning of the point you’re trying to make, sometimes make for amusing CV faux-pas, and at best, make no sense at all. So without further ado, here are those definitions for you.

“Back in June I blogged about common CV pitfalls, the importance of good grammar and how the misuse of homonyms can dumb-down even the most senior of executive CVs. For those of you who have been on tenterhooks since June waiting for the definitions of the most common misused homonyms, your wait is over!“

fewer/less

Always use fewer for things you can count in units and ‘less’ for things you can’t, so there are fewer candidates but less talent.

lead/led

Managers lead teams, right now in the present, but they led them in the past. They didn’t lead them (batter them with a heavy pipe). 

while/whilst

So which is correct? “Whilst 2014 is likely to be difficult, we expect better conditions in 2015”.

Or, “While 2014 is likely to be difficult, we expect better conditions in 2015”. For CV purposes, there is actually no real difference in meaning between while and whilst, but whilst has a perception of being quaint, old-fashioned, flowery, pompous even. So unless you’re writing poetry or a Downton-inspired novel, dump whilst and use while instead.

practice/practise

Practice is the noun: “I visited the GP Practice” or and practise is the verb “ I must practise my presentation before my interview”.

that/which

Google this and uncover a torrent of pedantic grammar-phenalia to do with restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. Actually misusing that/which produces sentences that are not entirely unacceptable but it does subtly change meaning. Here’s an example:

“Our office, which has 4 meeting rooms, is located in High Wycombe”,  meaning, our one and only office (which incidentally has 4 meeting rooms) is located in High Wycombe. The main thrust of the sentence is that the office is in High Wycombe but an extra bit of info is added (it has 4 meeting rooms) that you could easily remove from the sentence without changing the meaning.

Compare with:

“Our office that has 4 meeting rooms is located in High Wycombe”, meaning, so you were enquiring about our office with 4 meeting rooms? (4 meeting rooms is core info, not incidental) We have more than one office and this one just happens to be in High Wycombe... Get the subtle difference? 

affect/effect

Affect is usually used as a verb and means to have an influence on, or cause a change in something.

Some examples are:

“Manufacturing problems severely affected product pipeline and resulted in a downturn in  UK sales ”

“The structure of the UK team was negatively affected by the acquisition”

Effect is a noun; a result or outcome of something, an illusion , or can mean personal belongings or possessions . Examples in usage are:

“The new legislation will go into effect June 1st.

“The special effects in the film were impressive”

“His personal effects are in the car”

complement/compliment

In general, complement is more often used as a verb meaning to support or make whole so, for example “ the candidate is required to work the full complement of hours” and “ the new product complements the existing product portfolio”. So if something is complementary, it completes or supports the sentence subject. The second means ‘to encourage or praise’, eg “I must compliment you on your excellent resume”. And for those of us who love a bargain, we all know that if something is complimentary, it is free.

continual/continuous

A continual drone is a noise that is made repeatedly but not constantly. Continuous droning doesn’t stop… like the very worst kind of interview. 

compare to/with

Use compare to when comparing two things that are fundamentally very different:

He compared her to a summer day, and

Scientists compare the human brain to a computer.

For a more technical, structured and forensic-type analysis; you have two very similar things and are comparing one with the other, so:

The police compared the forged signature with the original, and

Compared with Candidate A, Candidate B  is more qualified for the role.

So there we have it, the mud has been cleared – hopefully anyway. Thanks for reading, and feel free to add your(grammar-perfect) comments below.

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