bad ideas #2: correcting a grammatical error that isn’t

If part of your job application strategy is going to be to point out a grammatical error on the employer’s Web site, please make sure that it’s actually an error.

I received a cover letter last week that opened this way: “Despite my eagerness to learn as much as I could about the position, the first thing that I noticed on your Web site was a grammatical error.”

She then quoted the “error.”

Except that it wasn’t an error. It was perfectly correct. She had a misunderstanding of comma usage.

Now, I am obsessed with grammar and usage, and I am all for pointing out possible grammatical errors, but if you’re going to do it in a cover letter, you really, really want to be sure that you’re correct.

Otherwise you look both pompous and silly (and in her case, not very bright), and it’s not a good thing when the hiring manager feels embarrassed for you.

{ 9 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I wouldn't dream of correcting something like that in a cover letter. How pretentious.

    People who just can't stop themselves from correcting others in situations where it's not appropriate are usually people I'm not eager to have as coworkers.

    To me, it indicates some really messed-up priorities. If you think it's a productive use of your limited cover-letter space to be pedantic over something that nobody really cares about except the manager of the person who made the Web site… well, go ahead, but what it means is that you couldn't fill your cover letter with actual substance and had to resort to a gimmick.

  2. Anonymous*

    WOW. Now that is a messed up way to open a cover letter, or an interview. Even if she was correct and there was an error, that type of comment has no place in a cover letter.

  3. Anonymous*

    Now I'm dying to know what the sentence was and what she thought was wrong with it.

    And yeah about it being a great way to get your application stored in the "circular file."

  4. Clare*

    Was she British? Serial commas are often considered incorrect in British English – not that this excuses her from making that sort of comment in her covering letter.

  5. Anonymous*

    I actually have a friend who's employed this tactic (or something like it) when applying for jobs.

    I think the rationale is less about actually correcting the grammar/spelling, but trying to demonstrate that you're, a: detail-oriented and notice these things, and b: pro-active. 2 thinks most employers probably want in a job candidate.

    A huge gamble obviously, as many people will just think you're c: pretentious.

    However, the friend I mentioned actually had great success with this approach, but she didn't limit her comments to a simple grammatical error, but to everything that was wrong with the organization's website and how she'd fix it.

    Even though web-work was not even remotely related to the job she was applying for.

    They ate it up though.

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