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Home > Blog: Resumes > Quiz: Are You Smarter Than a Spell Checker?

Quiz: Are You Smarter Than a Spell Checker?

Why are typos so common on resumes and cover letters? It's at least partly because we think spell checkers are more effective than they are. Some career pundits will tell you not to worry about typos, but you and I both know that's silly. Any error is a strike against you, and the hiring manager may have a one-strike-and-you're-out policy. Spell checkers are good at spotting real spelling errors, but they're no help if your typo happens to be a real word.

Do you think you're smarter than a spell checker? Take this quiz and find out!

The sentences and phrases below are typical of the errors we often see in resumes and cover letters. Each contains a misused word that an automated spell checker would not catch because the "typo" is a legitimate word (it's just not the right word). 

Identify the error that a spell checker would miss in each of the following items. (Answers appear below.)

  1. Of all the perspective employers I have researched, your organization has the most impressive track record.
  2. A background in psychology has proven to be a strong compliment to my real-world experience.
  3. Performed mechanical maintenance to ensure that operations preceded smoothly.
  4. Diffused crisis situations by applying specialized training and techniques to prevent injuries.
  5. As the Assistant to the Regional Manger, I filled several high-level administrative roles.
  6. Organized and lead 12-member safety team that reviewed accident reports and recommended steps to identify and eliminate hazards.
  7. Your posting for a Marketing Coordinator peaked my interest because my education and experience closely match the job description.
  8. My hard-working nature and get-it-done attitude inspired a former boss to remark several times that I was a real trooper.
  9. I developed outstanding organizational skills while serving as a clerk in the Pubic Defender's office.
  10. Maintained office supply inventory, ordered business cards for new hires, and replenished stationary and envelopes as needed.

OK. Now scroll down and see how well you did. But remember, even if you got a perfect score, it's still a good idea to ask a couple people who are obnoxious sticklers about spelling and grammar to proof your resume and cover letter before you submit it to a prospective employer!


  1. WRONG WORD: perspective (a way of regarding things) — Try to see things from my perspective.
    SHOULD BE: prospective (expected in the future) — A pregnant woman is a prospective mother. The interviewer is your prospective employer.
  2. WRONG WORD: compliment (to express admiration for) — I received several compliments on my new hairstyle.
    SHOULD BE: complement (to improve or complete something else) — Chocolate complements everything. Your friendly demeanor complements your sales skills.
  3. WRONG WORD: preceded (came before) — February preceded March.
    SHOULD BE: proceeded (carried on or continued) — The marathon proceeded despite the rain. The work proceeded because you fixed the machine.
  4. WRONG WORD: diffused (spread out) — The lampshade diffused the light.
    SHOULD BE: defused (literally, removed the fuse from) — The bomb squad defused the dynamite. Your diplomatic skills defused a tense situation.
  5. WRONG WORD: manger (a container for animal feed) — To feed the horse, fill the manger with straw.
    SHOULD BE: manager (one who manages) — To get a raise, fill your manager with awe.
  6. WRONG WORD: lead (a soft, heavy metal) — The lead apron protected me during the x-ray.
    SHOULD BE: led (provided leadership) — Maybe you've been led to believe the other way is right, but it's not.
  7. WRONG WORD: peaked (rose to the summit)  — My energy level peaked at 7:30, and I was sound asleep by 8:00.
    SHOULD BE: piqued (provoked or aroused) — The strange noises downstairs piqued my curiosity. The job description piqued my interest.
  8. WRONG WORD: trooper (soldier or police officer) — The state trooper gave me a speeding ticket.
    SHOULD BE: trouper (one who persists without complaint) — The troupe's motto is "The show must go on," and the actress was a real trouper to work with a broken arm.
  9. WRONG WORD: Pubic (a bodily region) — Pubic places are generally kept private.
    SHOULD BE: Public (the opposite of private, or people in general) — Public places generally welcome the public. 
  10. WRONG WORD: stationary (not moving) — Your career will be stationary if you leave lots of typos in your resume.
    SHOULD BE: stationery (writing paper) — If you like to sell office supplies and stationery, you should become a stationer.

For future reference, here's an online dictionary that is a good tool for the spelling-challenged. It starts guessing your word as soon as you type the first few letters. And if you happen to type the wrong word, you can tell by the definition that it's not what you meant.

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