I was reading some residency application letters and my head was almost exploding. Everyone has their “thing,” and maybe I have more than most, but I am passionate about appropriate comma placement. I wouldn’t sink an application for poor comma use, but it just grates on me, and why would you want to irritate the people who may make your professional dreams come true? I am not a grammar nut and this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of rules- those you can find elsewhere.
The most common error I see in letters of application is not using the comma as a pause. The most bothersome absent comma is the one needed to create an appropriate rhythm to the sentence. Here are some examples. Say the one without the comma out loud. When you say that sentence, isn’t there a natural pause? That pause is where a comma goes.
|No comma||Appropriate comma|
|As a student I worked with a faculty on a special project.||As a student, I worked with a faculty on a special project|
|No I didn’t realize that trip would change my life.||No, I didn’t realize that trip would change my life.|
|I did some research and did a RAVS trip.||I did some research, and did a RAVS trip.|
|When I did an externship in Costa Rica I experienced the connection between people animals and the environment.||When I did an externship in Costa Rica, I experienced the connection between people, animals, and the environment.|
|When I saw my first case a 5-year-old GSD I realized this was real.||When I saw my first case, a 5-year-old GSD, I realized this was real.|
|Fortunately I was able to work with great mentors.||Fortunately, I was able to work with great mentors.|
I could go on. My point is you should pay attention to this. It doesn’t mean you’re a monster, but it does make me question your attention to detail. If your letter of intent has these kinds of simple flaws, will you have the attention to detail needed for good records or research? Be detail-oriented in your written materials. And please, PLEASE have other people read and edit your letters!