Why spelling is everything in a design portfolio

Nicola du Toit
3 min readOct 16, 2019
Close up of the keys on an antique typewriter.
Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

In my time as a UX designer, I have interviewed many design candidates. Based on these experiences, I want to share a single piece of advice to all the designers out there looking for work: spell check your work!

Your CV (or résumé) and your design portfolio are your calling card. They are the very first impression I have of you as a potential hire. My experience of these two crucial documents will inform whether or not I recommend you for a face-to-face interview and they will determine my expectations of you going into that interview.

You see, I too am a user. Reading through your CV and portfolio will be an experience for me. If your CV demonstrates to me that you know this — that you have considered the importance and impact of font, colours, contrast, file format, access, spelling and grammar — you have scored 10 points before I’ve even turned to page 2. It shows me that you consider things like readability, usability and learnability in everything that you do. It shows me that you’ve thought about how someone else is going to experience your CV.

If, on the other hand, your CV is difficult to read, and full of spelling errors and typos, this creates a negative experience for me. I might have to re-read things. I will probably get frustrated (at best) and maybe feel confused (at worst). I will immediately wonder why — in 2019 — you were too lazy to run your text through a spell checker? Why did you not ask a friend to proofread it for you? How did you not notice all the little dotted red lines in your paragraphs of text? And this immediately puts me in a bad mood because you clearly have not considered your end-user’s experience of your work.

The reason this is particularly problematic coming from designers is two fold:

  1. Design is about communication.
  2. Design is about attention to detail.

If your CV is full of typos then before I’ve even met you, you have thrown shade on those two points above. I will immediately doubt how much attention to detail you pay, and I will doubt your ability to communicate your ideas and designs to a client. I will also wonder about how seriously you are taking this interview process — was that spelling error a genuine and unfortunate oversight (hey, it happens), or were you just too slapgat (Afrikaans for lazy-assed) to bother checking your work?

Yes, we all make mistakes. No, English is not everyone’s mother tongue. Yes, some of us are much better at verbal communication than written— and all of that is totally ok. But in the 21st century, spelling and grammar checking is just a single button click away. It is such a simple and easy thing to do — hell, even browsers have built in spell check functionality these days. There is simply no excuse anymore for sloppy typos and misspelled words.

Doing this one small and easy spell checking-thing immediately demonstrates 3 things to me:

  1. You’re detail orientated;
  2. You’ve considered the user experience of whomever is consuming your CV or portfolio; and
  3. You’re probably worth a face-to-face interview.

This is literally the easiest way to make a good first impression and score some free bonus points. It is the easiest way to demonstrate your design skills to the very person who is assessing them. It is the best way to improve your chances of being invited for a face-to-face interview. And it is the easiest way to set yourself up for success in that interview. It shouldn’t be rocket science that you should apply all of your design experience to the very documents that demonstrate your design skills!

Quite simply: the easier your CV or portfolio is for me to read, the more likely I’m going to want to meet you in person, and the more likely I am to go into that interview wishing the very best for you.

(And yes — no doubt there are grammatical errors in this post, but I tried, and I used the spell checking functionality, I promise. Also I’m not using this piece of writing to apply for a job!)

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Nicola du Toit

UX and usability specialist, founder of The Empathy Lab by day. Musician by night. Archaeology and anthropology student in between.