16 Writing Rules All Young Professionals Should Know

WritingEven with the relentless conversation around using good grammar, especially during the job search, many of us fail badly in this area.

There are some writing rules many of us have forgotten. And there are also words and phrases that sound interchangeable, but really aren’t. So mistakes are made, every day.

To help you put your best grammar foot forward, here are 16 writing rules all young professional should know:

1. Numbers

Write out numbers one through nine. Use figures for 10 and above. For example, “Brittany attended three job interviews, but Alex attended 12.” When writing percentages, use numerals with the word “percent,” not the symbol “%.”

2. Quotation Marks 

Use a comma to introduce a quotation after a standard dialogue tag, a brief introductory phrase, or a dependent clause. Put commas and periods within quotation marks. Place colons and semicolons outside closed quotation marks. Place a question mark or exclamation point within closing quotation marks if the punctuation applies to the quotation itself, but outside the quotation marks if the punctuation applies to the whole sentence.

3. Time

When writing a specific time, always use the numerical number and write a.m. and p.m. in lowercase followed by periods. When referring to a time span, use a dash to separate the two times (ex. 2-5 p.m.). Additionally, use noon and midnight rather than 12:00 p.m. or 12:00 a.m.

4. Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

A comparative adjective compares two people or things. For example, “The bowl is bigger than the cup.” A superlative is used to compare one person or thing with every other member of their group. For example, “The panda was the biggest bear in the zoo.”  Make sure to use the right form for the context. This site has somecommon examples.

5. More Than vs. Over

Use more than when referring to numbers and use over when referring to spatial elements. For example, “More than 90 percent of recruiters use social media in recruitment efforts. Katie jumped over the puddle.”

6. Fewer vs. Less

Use fewer when referring to things you can count, but less when referring to volumes or to things that cannot be counted. For example, “Kristen had fewer assignments than Olivia, but Olivia had less writing than Kristen.”

7. That vs. Which

Use that for essential clauses, important to the meaning of the sentence. Use which for nonessential clauses, where the pronoun is less necessary, and use commas. For example, “Remember the questions that the interviewer asked. The interview, which started at 11 a.m., lasted longer than I thought it would.”

8. Who vs. Whom

Who refers to the subject the sentence and whom refers to the object. If you are still unsure, the easiest way to decide between the two is to substitute the word he or him. If he works, use who; if him works, use whom. For example, “Who submitted a resume? He did. Whom did you hire? I hired him.”

9. Toward vs. Towards

The way we speak has made this confusing to writers, but the word toward never ends in an s. This also applies to forward, backward, upward, downward, etc.

10. Alot vs. a Lot

This is another thing writers often get confused, but alot is not a word. It is always two: a lot.

11. Then vs. Than

Than is used for comparisons. Then is used to refer to a point in time or “in addition to.” For example, “Morgan’s dog is smaller than mine. She has to finish work, then she will feed her dog.”

12. Farther vs. Further

Use farther when referring to physical distance and further when referring to an extension of time or degree. For example, “Kyle lives farther away than Marikaye. Heather is further along in her career than Jule.”

13. Like vs. Such As

Like is a preposition and used to make comparisons. Such as means for example. For example, “Julie drives a car like Nikita’s. She has lived in many cities such as Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston.”

14. Affect vs. Effect

Affect is usually used as a verb and effect is usually a noun. For example, “The amount of time you spend researching a company affects how well you do in an interview. A simple thank you note can also have a positive effect on your career.”

15. It’s vs. Its

Use it’s when shortening “it is” and use its as a possessive. For example, “It’s tough to conduct a phone interview. The lion doesn’t know its own strength.”

16. Your vs. You’re

These often have the same problems as its and it’s. Your shows possession and you’re is a contraction for “you are.” For example, “Your notes were not accurate. You’re going to be sorry you showed up late to the interview.”

There are many, many other mistakes people tend to make in their writing. If you’re ever unsure about the proper way to write something, look up the AP Style rules. There are lots of websites out there that break them down. Strong writing makes you seem much more credible, so it’s important to avoid making silly mistakes.

What are some other style mistakes you see most frequently?


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at ComeRecommended!




Jule GamacheAbout the Author: Jule was the public relations research assistant at Come Recommended. She has experience in public relations, social media, blogging, research, and marketing from multiple internships and student organizations.



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