Category Archives: Proofreader

How to write a CV (that gets you an interview)

CV and copywriting writing tips

So, you’re suddenly unemployed, redundant or unsure of your job security. It may be a scary time, but one thing you can do is take a proactive approach to your future. Now is the time to freshen up your CV so it’s attractive to a potential employer. Or, write a CV if you’ve never needed one until now. Here are my top CV writing tips to make sure you bag that interview.

Find a CV template

Is your CV looking a little tired? Or non-existent? Maybe you lack the creativity to format it professionally. But don’t panic, you don’t have to! Check out the range of CV templates on Word or Google Docs. Pick the one you like and off you go.

However, if you are a creative, make a CV that shows off your artistic flair and design skills. As long as the information is clear and easy to read, you’re free to make your CV as snazzy as you like. 

A quick word on which font to use in your CV. It’s best to keep it nice and simple, and avoid any crazy typefaces that are hard to read or remotely wacky looking. Fonts like Arial, Cambria and Calibri are my personal faves. Oh, and never use Comic Sans. Just ever.

Start with the essentials

Start with your name, phone number, date of birth and email. Sorry to break it to you, but now is the time to update that embarrassing email you set up as a teenager and never got round to changing. Yes, I mean you crazyicklelou@hotmail.com

Keep it professional and simple so prospective employers know who you are and how to get in touch.

Write a personal statement

The next part of your mission to write a CV employers will notice should be a personal statement that summarises you, your skills and goals. Keep it short and snappy and don’t include every generic quality under the sun. Make it genuinely personal to you. Write it so it reads like a fabulous reference to make a good first impression. An example is below:

“An enthusiastic, energetic and professional marketer with a real flair for design and a keen eye for detail. Currently seeking a role in digital marketing to use the experience and skills gained in previous roles to benefit a new company.”

Organise your work history

Employment history is next up. Using this as your section header, start with your most recent or current role then list your job history. Name the company, location, your position and dates you worked there. Underneath, include a short overview of your role in each company in bullet points or a small paragraph.

If you’ve had more than four jobs, stick to the ones that are most relevant to the job you’re seeking.

And if you’ve never had to write a CV before and you’re lacking work experience, include any voluntary roles or work experience here. Make it clear this was unpaid work you took on in your own spare time. After all, this is a great way to impress employers with your can-do attitude.

Add your education

The next title on your CV should be education. Again, start with your most recent education and list each establishment with the dates you attended and qualifications and grades received.

Any qualifications or training courses you’ve completed outside of an educational establishment can be included here too, so make sure to add anything relevant to your future employer. This can include online courses, training done in the workplace or extracurricular qualifications.

Hobbies and other information

The dreaded section when you write a CV is the part where you include a cringetastic sentence about your wholesome hobbies. If you can, make it as truthful and personal as possible so your actual personality shines through. Employers will soon be bored reading yet another identikit statement about how you love socialising and fitness.

Be specific and don’t be afraid to inject a little humour to show your funny side. Just don’t go overboard and make yourself sound weird (save that for when you’ve actually got the job).

Take the starting point: “In my spare time I like dance, cooking, knitting and reading”. A good alternative would be: “In my spare time, I enjoy taking hip hop dance classes, cooking Thai food, knitting scarves for my nieces and reading science fiction novels.” Instantly, an employer gains an insight into your personality and you appear as a more rounded individual who stands out from the crowd.

In this part of your CV, it’s also wise to add in the fact you have a full, clean driving licence if you do. If you’re learning to drive and driving is relevant to the job role, include this information too, to prevent an employer discounting you too soon.

Who to include in CV references

Your CV reference section should include at least one former employer or line manager. However, if you’re looking for your first job, feel free to include former college tutors, mentors or work experience bosses. It’s also perfectly acceptable to add a personal reference in there. All an employer is looking for is someone who can reassure them that you are trustworthy, reliable and hardworking. Make sure you include in your CV reference section each referee’s full name and contact details, so the employer can contact them if they decide to progress your application.

And if you’re job searching at a sensitive time and you don’t feel comfortable adding current employer details when you come to write a CV, it’s fine to add “references available on request” into this section of your CV.

Other things to put into your CV

By now, your CV should be in pretty good shape. The ideal length is one A4 page, but make sure it’s no more than two pages of A4 if you’re struggling to limit all of your amazing achievements to a single sheet. If, on the other hand, your CV is looking a little empty, flesh it out with other great information about yourself.

For example, a section titled “key skills and qualities” would be a great way to highlight your strengths, if you don’t yet have the work experience to do this. Remember to make it personal and not too generic, as anything remotely “works well in a team and on own initiative” lacks originality and doesn’t tell an employer much about you.

Get your CV checked

Finally, get your CV checked! Whether you know your spelling and grammar is poor, or you’re pretty sure your CV is ticking all the boxes, it’s ALWAYS a good idea to get your CV checked by someone else. That may be a friend, colleague or a professional proofreader, but whoever you choose, make sure you don’t omit this crucial step. Even the best writers miss things when checking their own work *proofreads this blog obsessively before posting* – so a fresh pair of objective eyes over your CV is essential before you start uploading or posting it.

Right now I am offering to proofread, edit and reformat (if necessary) any CVs sent to me by people who have found themselves recently unemployed or struggling to find work. This service is completely free of charge, with no strings attached. I simply want to help people to find employment and hopefully, nab that dream job.

If you’d like to take advantage of my FREE CV checking service, simply email it to me at wordsbyali@gmail.com

Need to write a CV fast and got a quick question? Drop me a line, or call me on 07305 081277.

Happy CV writing!

 

How to write a cover letter

How to write a cover letter

You’ve found a job that looks perfect for you. You’ve polished your CV. Now, all that stands between you and your dream job is a blank page that needs to miraculously turn into a mean cover letter. So, how on earth do you write a cover letter? Don’t worry, your friendly neighbourhood copywriter has got your back. Read on to find out exactly how to write a cover letter that will impress potential employers.

How to format a cover letter

Firstly, let’s lean on our good friends Microsoft Word and Google Docs. They’ve done the hard work for you, so before you start panicking about how to format a cover letter, check out their letter writing templates. You can do this by simply logging into your Google account, going into your Google Docs then browsing the template gallery. Or, open up Word and peruse the different letter writing templates available there.

The general letter writing format I would advise to stick to is to write the recipient’s address top left, followed by your own address beneath this on the right.

Missing out a line to add a space, include the date underneath your address on the right. 

Beneath this, you will then tab back to the left and add your salutation, which takes us seamlessly into…

Who to address a cover letter to

There are two ways to address a cover letter. If you know the name of the person you are writing to, then write their name as so: “Dear Mr Bloggs,” ( followed by a comma).

However, if you’re not sure who to address the letter to, simply write: “Dear sir/madam,” then a comma.

Now is not the time to be casual, so forget about starting your cover letter hi, hey, hello or similar. Keep it professional and make a good first impression.

What to put in a cover letter

Firstly, begin your cover letter with a general statement about why you are applying for the role, referencing the role and company by name. Then, add a brief sentence about why you feel you would be a great candidate for the job. 

For example: “I am writing to apply for the position of marketing executive at Generic Marketing Agency. I feel I would be extremely well suited to this role thanks to my marketing degree, workplace training and previous job experience in similar roles, and my enthusiasm and proactive attitude would be a real asset to the company.”

From here, the best way to write the content in your cover letter is by working to the job description. Check out exactly what the employer is looking for, then relate it back to your skills, qualifications and qualities. 

Now, this doesn’t mean simply listing the job description in its entirety and adding that you can do each thing. “Experience in Photoshop – tick, competency in Illustrator – completed it mate.” Instead, use the job description as your foundation to weave your suitability into fluid, snappy sentences. For example: “I am extremely experienced in design, and I’m highly proficient at working in both Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.”

However, a word of warning. A cover letter should usually be short and sweet, unless an employer has asked for a detailed account of your skills and experience. So, if there’s a huge list of requirements on the job description, condense your bragging down into a couple of short paragraphs. 

Throughout the letter, make sure you refer to the company by name. And don’t be afraid to include a nod to any research you’ve done on the business. An example of this would be: “I was impressed by the work you did for Animal Charity – as a passionate animal lover, I would relish the opportunity to bring my skillset to your next project of this kind.” This shows you’ve done your homework and you’re keen to slide straight into any existing or future projects.

How to sign off a cover letter – is it yours sincerely or yours faithfully?

When is it yours sincerely, and when is it yours faithfully? The eternal sign off debate. This is one I have to either Google (or pre-Google, I had to ask my mum) every single time I write a letter. Which, to be frank, is rare nowadays, but still.

The answer is simple (if you can remember it). If you know the person, or at least their name, then sign off your letter with “yours sincerely’. 

If you don’t know the person you’re writing a letter to, then the correct sign off to end the letter is “yours faithfully”. Use “yours faithfully” when you’ve started the letter “dear sir/madam”.

I suppose you could think of it as being sincere towards an actual person you know. Or, having faith your letter will reach the right person if not.

(And if I can remember that without Googling it next time, have faith that I’ll be giving myself a sincere pat on the back).

Cover letter writing tips

To finish, I wanted to include some general cover letter writing tips. Think of this section as a final boost to get your cover letter over the line from the maybe to the yes pile. 

Ideally, your cover letter should be around a single page of A4 in length. After all, it’s an introduction to your CV or application, and not the application itself. Therefore, try to be short and sweet, summarising your key points, skills and experience.

Again, refer back to the name of the company you’re applying to work for, as it shows you’ve taken the time to understand the business and this isn’t just a copy and paste job.

Maintain a professional tone throughout writing your cover letter, yet don’t be afraid of showing who you are. Now, this doesn’t mean inserting jokes in there. However, you should be frank about the kind of person you are and how you feel this would tie in with the role or company. Most employers are simply trying to find out if you can string a sentence together and conduct yourself professionally when they ask for a cover letter. So, as long as you’ve smashed this 

And my final cover letter writing tip is ALWAYS get it checked by someone else! Friend, family member, work mate or professional, as long as they have a decent grasp of the English language then fire your cover letter over and ask for their honest opinion. Whether it’s your first ever cover letter or you’ve applied for hundreds of jobs, a fresh pair of eyes is always a good idea.

Hopefully, this blog has helped you to write a cover letter that will impress your employer of choice. If it leads to you getting an interview, please let me know so I can smile to myself like a proud mum.

Good luck!

8 of the most common spelling and grammar fails (and how to avoid them)

Stop making spelling and grammar mistakes
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Look, we all make mistakes! No judgment (or should that be judgement? The jury’s out on that one).

But making spelling and grammar mistakes in your business content can be a problem. Why? They make you look pretty unprofessional and could cause customers to lose faith in the quality of your products or services.

Now, I realise that may sound dramatic. And while I’m not known as a drama queen, I take grammar very seriously. 

So, could it be time to clean up your copywriting act? I’ve pulled together eight of the most common spelling and grammar mistakes I see regularly in businesses’ online and offline content. Plus, I’ll let you know how to avoid them in future. 

And while I would never name and shame, these errors are so frequently committed my red pen would run out in a matter of minutes if I could realise my ultimate goal in life of correcting every typo on the internet. 

Rather than making enemies by notifying people of these grammatical gaffes, I thought it may be helpful to highlight them here. If you find it difficult to differentiate between commonly confused words, read on.

After all, while my days of correcting friends’ Facebook typos are long gone (apologies if you fell victim to that cruel campaign), business content is something you really do want to be correct. Unlike your holiday picture captions (thanks for uploading all 459 of those), your website wording, press release prose or business blog will be weighed up by existing or potential customers. The very people who are comparing you to your competitors and looking for any reason to discount you and go with the alternative.

So while I reiterate drama really isn’t my thing, you can see why words are the exception to that rule.

Read on to find out which are my eight most commonly seen spelling and grammar mistakes. Then discover how easily you can avoid them (and help me sleep at night). 

Should it be than or then?

The word than is a preposition used to compare something to another thing, e.g. “Oasis are better than Blur” (just to show my age). It’s also used in comparisons as a conjunction, e.g. “she is younger than I am” (also likely to be true).

Meanwhile, the word then always relates to time. Confusingly, it can be used as either an adverb, a noun or an adjective. When using then as an adverb, you could say “I ran much faster, then” to refer to a previous point in time. Or, using then as a noun would appear like “let’s go to the park then”, to imply an understood point in time. 

Using then as an adjective sees it appear before a noun. For example, “my then boyfriend” would refer to a boyfriend someone had at another point in time, which relates to a story being told about that period. 

The main thing to remember is that than is a comparison, while then describes time.

What’s the grammar gripe with affect and effect?

The difference between affect and effect is misunderstood by many and you can see why. The wonderful English language is full of idiosyncrasies, and it sometimes feels like it was designed to confuse us.

However, help is at hand as I will now explain the difference between affect and effect

In the simplest terms, affect is a verb, while effect is a noun. 

Therefore, examples of how to use affect and effect effectively (sorry), would be as follows. “This blog is starting to affect my sanity”, and “this blog is having an effect on my sanity.” In this instance, affect is the doing word and effect is the noun, or the name for what is happening.

One way to remember the difference is by associating the a in affect with a for action, so you can link it to the fact it’s always going to be a verb (that’s a doing word, for anyone who passed notes through GCSE English).

Still confused? Top tip alert – just use the word impact instead, as it works for either situation and saves you a headache.

Am I spelling it practise or practice?

Once again, we find ourselves with a verb and noun doing battle to confuse us as much as possible. Again, these two share all but one of the same letters and sound EXACTLY THE SAME.

So WTF is the difference between practise and practice?

The word practise is a verb, so you’ll only ever use it if you’re practising doing something. For example, “I need to practise my spelling and grammar”. 

On the other hand, the word practice is a noun which refers to the name of something, like a doctor’s practice or tennis practice. Just don’t tie yourself up in knots trying to explain you’re going to practise your downward dog at yoga practice, because I’ve now typed both so many times they no longer look like real words.

Do I lose customers through loose grammar?

Is this blog making you lose the will to live? Or making you think you’ve been playing it fast and loose with your grammar?

The difference between lose and loose is one many people fail to grasp, so let’s lay it out to avoid any further confusion.

We’ll start with lose, which is a verb meaning “to misplace”. When pronounced, it sounds like it should have a double o to create the “oo” sound. But trust me, it doesn’t – so you don’t loose weight, you lose weight (and you don’t need to anyway, you look great).

The word loose, meanwhile, is an adjective which means baggy. So your trousers might be loose, just make sure you don’t lose them (awkward).

Should I definitely spell it defiantly?

I blame autocorrect for the rise in people texting defiantly instead of definitely. Clearly, we’re a highly definitive bunch of people, as I see this grammatical mistake so often, yet it means something completely different.

As we know, definitely means “without any doubt”. For example, “I definitely need to spell everything in this blog correctly” (can you imagine how embarrassed I’ll be if I don’t?).

Conversely, defiantly means “in a manner that shows open resistance or bold disobedience”. Are you really that naughty? If you are, then good for you and as long as your defiance is justified and lawful, I support that. You can use it correctly like so: “she defiantly refused to accept she was wrong about her spelling”.

However, if you’re not trying to be controversial and you just want to communicate your certainty, there’s no need to do it defiantly. 

Can I learn to make less or fewer grammar errors?

OK, so the difference between less and fewer is one of my personal bugbears. However, so many huge brands mix it up I definitely don’t hold it against anyone else. 

Both less and fewer are the opposite of more, with a subtle difference. While less means “not as much”, fewer means not as many. Use fewer if it’s countable, and less if it’s not.

The biggest culprit in confusing less and fewer is the supermarket industry, asking us to check out “10 items or less” . This is grammatically incorrect. Why? Because if the items can be counted, we should use fewer. For example, “I ate fewer crisps than you” (which is usually the case) or “she has fewer shopping bags than me” – not then 😉 

We use the word less to describe something which can’t be counted, like “there’s less choice in this shop” or “I have less space in my new office.”

(M&S – call me).

What’s the difference between your and you’re?

Ah, the original and best grammar mistake committed in the English language. Put simply by Ross Geller:

“Y-O-U-apostrophe-R-E means you are. Y-O-U-R means your!”

The easiest way to decipher the difference between your and you’re is to ask yourself if you could say “you are” instead of “your” in the sentence in question. 

If you can, it’s “you’re”, e.g. “you’re so good at spelling and grammar”. 

Can’t change it to you are? Then it is going to be “your”. For example, “your hair looks amazing” (it does btw).

Have I been spelling quiet quite badly?

Honestly, I’m quite sure this is one of the most common grammatical errors I’ve seen online and I refuse to keep quiet about it.

And while I’m pretty sure this one is mostly a typo, I’ll explain just in case.

The word quite is an adjective used to describe nouns, meaning either completely, or just a bit (thanks again English language for being so crystal clear). For example, “this blog is quite useful” or “I’ve had quite enough of grammar for one day”.

Unlike the word quite, the word quiet means devoid of sound or noise, as in “it’s oh so quiet, ssssh, ssssh” or “please be quiet and stop banging on about grammar” (which I get a lot).

So I’ll shut up about this one as long as you don’t mix them up again, OK?

How to make fewer (not less) spelling and grammar mistakes

There we have it, my lowdown on the most frequently committed sins against spelling and grammar. Hopefully, this has helped you identify common mistakes you might have been inadvertently making in your online and offline marketing content. Or, maybe it’s reassured you that you’re a grammar guru who doesn’t need any help in this department.

But if all of the above feels about as clear as mud, the easiest option may be to call on a professional copywriter or proofreader to ensure you’re not risking any of these common spelling and grammar mistakes in your business content.

If that’s the case, hit me up by emailing wordsbyali@gmail.com or calling 07395 128493 and let’s see if my red pen and I can be of service to your business. 

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