Re: Cover letter mistakes

Subject: Re: Cover letter mistakes
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 01 Mar 2001 13:02:51 -0800

Lisa Wright wrote:

> I know people get all twitter-pated about this, but in spite of all the
> anal-retentives who say they toss a writer's resume because it's had
> typos (and I'm almost positive I had that happen to me at least once),
> I've still gotten job offers from every company I've actually
> interviewed with in spite of mistakes (and I've never been hurting for
> interviews). Once I had a typo on the year for a job, and the other time
> I had managed to do anti-technical writing and came up with some silly
> phrase for what really should have been the word "diagram."

I've said many times on this list that people are overly concerned
about correct grammar in every situation.

However, after mentally debating the matter, I have to say that a
cover letter, unlike this list, is one of the situations where
grammar does count.

I wouldn't automatically reject an application with grammatical
mistakes or typos, but I would think twice before bringing in a
person who has a sloppy cover letter. It's not the only criterion;
I'd also look at how the letter was constructed and how it was laid
out. But it would be a factor.

My reasoning is not just that a cover letter should prove a
professional writer's competence. God knows, I make my own share of
mistakes, so I really can't criticize anyone else on the same point.
And, since my mistakes, as embarrassing as I find them, don't stop
people from paying for my writing, I know that grammar and spelling
aren't the only way that a writer is judged.

Instead, my reasoning is that a writer who lets a flawed cover
letter go out either has poor work habits or simply doesn't care
about their work. In other words, a badly presented letter suggests
the same thing as showing up to an interview in ripped jeans: I'm
probably not dealing with a professional. While you can become
obsessive about such things, if people don't care enough to present
themselves in the best possible light, why would I think that they
could represent my company through their work?

Of course, I could be wrong, and other indications may point in
another direction, but a badly presented letter would flag the
application as unlikely.

Bruce Byfield 317.833.0313 bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com
Director of Marketing and Communications,
Progeny Linux Systems

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