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Top 10 Common Grammar Mistakes in RICS APC Submissions

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

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What is this week's blog about?

In this week’s blog, after reviewing many RICS APC submissions this Spring, we thought it would be helpful to share our top 10 most common grammar mistakes that you should be aware of.

Always make sure you proof read your final submission carefully – asking a non-surveyor is a great way to do this. They will often identify issues that you don’t and can check if the overall ‘story’ of your examples and submission make sense.

Another great tip is to use the Spelling & Grammar check function on Word, or a more comprehensive tool such as Grammarly.

1. Long sentences

It can be really difficult to read a submission where extremely long sentences are used. Try to keep sentences short and to the point, breaking them up at a natural point.

For example, the above sentence could have been written as, ‘it can be really difficult to read a submission where extremely long sentences are used, so try to keep sentences short and to the point and break them up at a natural point’. This feels a little clumsy and is harder to follow.

2. Use of contractions

The RICS APC submission is a formal piece or work. We recommend avoiding contractions such as ‘don’t’ or ‘can’t’ – instead use the full ‘do not’ or ‘cannot’. It might be tempting to use these to save words, but it reduces the overall professionalism and formality of your written work.

3. Use of US rather than UK English (if you are a UK candidate or using UK English)

Always use UK English if you are submitting in the UK (or in a country that adopts UK English conventions), so use ‘s’ instead of ‘z’. For example ‘formalise’ instead of ‘formalize’. There are also some specific spellings to be aware of, e.g. ‘meter’ in the US and ‘metre’ in the UK. Always check that the spell check function on your word processing software is set to English (UK) to help avoid these errors.

4. Use of apostrophes

We often see apostrophes for singular and plural words being used incorrectly. If you are talking about something that a client owns, then you need to use the singular ‘the client’s property’. If you are talking more generally about meeting the needs of multiple clients, then you would use ‘clients’ needs’.

5. Tense

In the RICS APC submission, ensure you use the first person and the past tense. This means that you will be talking about what you did – not what someone else is doing or what your firm might do! For example, ‘I dealt with a rent review in Bristol. I inspected, measured and analysed the subject lease’, rather than ‘we dealt with a rent review in Bristol. We would inspect, measure and analyse the subject lease’. You need to clearly explain in your submission what you did (not what others did) in real life examples (which will have happened in the past).

6. Being too verbose

A key skill in writing your RICS APC submission is to be clear and concise. Sometimes we see phrases that are too verbose and could be simplified. For example, ‘It came to my attention that the client’s rent review was overdue and I advised them to instruct me to deal with it at the earliest opportunity’. Instead, it would be much better to say, ‘I identified an overdue rent review and sought instructions from my client to deal with it’. This is where asking a non-surveyor to proof read your work will pay dividends!

7. Use of ‘and’ in a list

If you are writing a list, then you only need ‘and’ before the last item in the list. So, for example, the correct way would be to write ‘I collated, weighted and analysed the comparable evidence’, rather than ‘I collated and weighted and analysed the comparable evidence’. Whilst this is a simple example, it is important to note the correct use of ‘and’ in longer lists.

8. Use of could of rather than could have

Although when spoken, ‘could have’ sounds a lot like ‘could of’ – the correct usage is always ‘could have’. So, for example, ‘the client could have proceeded with option one. However, the time constraints meant that I advised proceeding with option two’.

9. Tautologies

This is where you say the same thing twice in a sentence, just using different words. For example, ‘dilapidated ruins’, ‘close proximity’, ‘added bonus’ and ‘large crowd’. These all say the same thing twice – you could just say ‘ruins’, ‘close’, ‘bonus’ and ‘crowd’.

10. You and you’re…

Getting the use of ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ and ‘their’ and ‘there’ right can be tricky.

‘Your’ is where something belongs to you. ‘You’re’ means ‘you are’, so saying something like, ‘you are an APC candidate’.

‘Their’ is similar, in that this is where something belongs to another person (or them). ‘There’ relates to where something is physically, so ‘over there’.

11. Bonus! (and not an added bonus…)

Commonly we see ‘where’ and ‘were’ confused – ‘where’ relates to the location of something, whereas ‘were’ is a past tense verb. Careful proof reading will help to pick these up.

In your RICS APC submission, it is really important to present a fully proof read document to your assessors. However, spelling and grammar can be a challenge to many candidates, particularly if you are dyslexic.

We recommend seeking support with proof reading if this is the case (for example, through our Submission Review or Hourly Mentoring), as well as checking out the ‘How to Write in Plain English Guide’. When using this, however, do bear in mind the advice we give on your written submission, such as using the past tense and first person (which may contradict some of the advice in the Plain English guide, and is very specific to the RICS APC submission requirements).

How can we help?

Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.

N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.


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