Top tips for proofreading your CV (and other important written content)

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CVs are often the first communication with a potential employer and are your professional calling card. It’s worth making sure your CV is as good as it can be. This means no spelling, grammar mistakes or typos.

And just to clarify, spell check is not the same as proofreading! Nor is a quick skim read enough.

The cover letter sent out with your CV is important too and needs to be personalised to the company you’re contacting. As well as spelling and grammar, all the obvious things need to be checked: is there a subject title, are you using a name of a contact? It’s easy to send an email but once it’s out there, you can’t change it….

As well as CVs, most written content will need to be checked at some point. If you have an important email to send out, get someone else to have read through first.

If you have a long piece of text that needs proofing, it’s a good idea to break down the document into paragraphs and then follow the first three tips below for each paragraph. This is essential for things like brochures and annual reports that are going to be physically printed for distribution, as in this case mistakes are costly. Anything online can be rectified quickly but obviously it’s never good to have typos, whether online or printed, so proofreading is key.


1. Read for sense

All the basics: are things in the right order? For documents like CVs - do the dates make sense chronologically? Have you got all the essentials that you must have in a CV: such as contact details, key experience etc.?

2. Grammar/spelling

And I don’t mean spellcheck, not yet anyway… Read slowly to check the grammar and spelling, preferably out loud as that will make you read slower and concentrate on the text.

3. Read backwards

Yes, sounds strange but reading backwards means you notice typos or spelling mistakes/duplicated words that you sometimes wouldn’t pick up on, as when you read normally, the brain will fill the gaps and ‘auto-correct’. Lots of people (skim) read very quickly and don’t always notice typos but someone will, somewhere, and that person might be a potential client or your new boss.

4. Get someone else to read it

We’re not robots and if you’ve gone over your CV or other content a few times, you’ll stop noticing the things that need changing. A fresh pair of eyes will pick up on something glaringly obvious that you haven’t noticed.

5. And then, and only then are you allowed to use spell check!

For something as important as your CV, spellcheck is not enough. It’s always in addition to the above.