No Image Available

Spelling mistakes on application forms


Your interesting article: ‘Poor literacy spells disaster for job hunters’ struck a chord with me. I work as the Press officer for ‘The Simplified Spelling Society’, an educational reform group set up in 1908 who campaign for spelling reform. The Simplified Spelling Society’s main motivation is to make things easier, and fairer for the 1 in 5 adults in the UK who are considered functionally illiterate.

What is illiteracy though? And isn’t it the system that is at fault in many ways? Knowing ‘they’re’ from ‘their’ is akin to a trick question for some, who despite their lack of ‘i’ before ‘e’ knowledge, are otherwise excellent future employees.

The Simplified Spelling Society has had some illustrious associations. Theodore Roosevelt spearheaded the American campaign in the 20th Century – and suceeded in simplifying things. His White House memos were all sent with simplified spelling. And while some moan about the American spelling of ‘color’ on ‘spell check’, wouldn’t it make things better for future employers if a number of words were simplified?

The Society regularly appear in the media, and their main aim is to promote discussion.

Is there anyone in HR who’d like to join the discussion?

Vikki Rimmer

4 Responses

  1. The bar is set low enough as it is
    I feel for those who have an underlying condition affecting their literacy. I don’t, though, think the rest of us should have to simplify writing because of this; we can help, understand and make allowances.

    In most cases, though, poor spelling has nothing to do with dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia or any other medical condition, it’s simply that despite a dozen or more years in full-time education, some people haven’t felt the need to learn! I really don’t think that organisations should relax their standards because of this. This is another example of the pressure to dumb down, of society taking the ‘lowest common denominator’ route. We should strive for higher standards, not lower ones.

    Jim Carroll

  2. Spelling Mistakes!
    I recently interviewed a very promising candidate for a post where she would have been communicating with our clients by e-mail and by letter. She would also have been responsible for editing some legal documents before they were sent. At the end of the interview she asked if I would like to see a copy of her dissertation and I agreed that I would. On reading it I discovered both grammatical and spelling errors, some completely childish in nature! This actually made the difference between her having a chance at the post and not. Why is that I was taught how to speak and spell when at school, but this is no longer possible?! Do other countries de-value the beauty and uniqueness of their language by moving to phonetic spelling? I don’t think so…

  3. RSI discussion
    Has anyone come across the same situation as we have found? It seems that large organisations don’t like to use RSI software since it generally has to interact with Windows at a system level to track keystrokes and this is a security no-no.

    As the inventor of an RSI keyboard (not yet produced) that doesn’t rely on the computer I am asking other HR professionals what they feel about RSI issues and this idea.

    We are a small business and there is no ‘sales pitch’ here. Just the need to ask people at the coal face their opinion about RSI issues and this new idea. As you can see we don’t yet even have a product, just an idea.

    Is there anyone who would like to join this discussion about RSI? Anyone interested can get more information about RSI in the office (including an occupational therapists report) and maybe complete a short questionairre to help us at

    Mark Meakings
    [email protected]

  4. Laugh or Cry?
    I spent Thursday evening going through 80 job applications for a senior post – Business Development Manager with a salary of £40k.

    Given that a key part of this position is the need to write tailored proposals to senior HR managers and HR directors, you would hope that sensible applicants had spell checked and proofread their CV – unfortunately not.

    The two funniest that I would share are ;

    1) The candidate who started their CV with “I am a highly articulated man”, which conjured up visions of a guy with multiple joints rotating in all sorts of positions in our office.

    2) The covering letter that included “I am very confident that you will shortlist me for this senior sales position”, only to find that his CV didn’t mention any experience of sales or business development at all.

    Humour aside, I do think that the plethora of online job-boards contributes to this by making it all too easy for candidates to fire poorly thought our, poorly checked and certainly untailored CV’s to multiple jobs. From my perspective an untailored CV with spelling or grammar errors has no chance of getting anywhere near a shortlist.

    Now, where is the spell check on this blog thing…

    Glenn Elliott
    Asperity Employee Benefits

No Image Available

Get the latest from HRZone

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.