Under the pressure of writing a clear, concise resume, job seekers often assume that they know how to use and spell words that they read every day of their lives. That assumption can cost them an interview if they make a mistake; hiring managers and recruiters are very rigid about rejecting resumes with mistakes. Here are six words that are commonly misused in resumes and some guidelines on how to use them correctly.
Complement and Compliment. Complement refers to something that brings to completion (“the manager’s tact complements his mentoring skills”). A compliment is a favorable comment (“the manager showed great tact”). Generally, you will want the word “complement.”
Effect and Affect. As a noun, an effect is something that happens; an affect is a feeling or emotion. As a verb, you “effect” something when you make it happen or bring it about; you “affect” something when you influence it. In general, you will want the noun “effect.” However, the verb could be either “effected” (“the team effected—that is, the team brought about—a major change in the process”) or “affected” (“the changes affected—that is, the changes influenced—everyone’s work habits”).
Ensure, Insure, and Assure. Ensure means “make sure” (“the team ensured a favorable outcome for the project”). Insure is used for insurance (car, health, home). Assure means “to inform positively” (as in “we assured him the project would be finished on time”). Although the meanings can overlap, it is best if you keep them separate and therefore consistent. Generally, unless you work with insurance (insure) or in psychology (assure), you will want the word “ensure.”
Principal and Principle. Principal refers to the head of a school or to the highest ranking person in a company (“principal engineer”) or to the amount of money being loaned (the principal, as opposed to the interest), whereas a principle is a fundamental law or standard (“because he had high principles, he would never lie about anything”). Generally, you will want the word “principal.”
Personnel and Personal. The personnel in a company are the staff. Anything that is personal is private (“my personal Facebook account”). Generally, you will want the word “personnel.”
While other words are often misused on resumes, these are the most common.