Getting to Grips with Grammar and Punctuation

Executive writing rarely needs to be stylish; usually it is meant to impart information, trigger action, or, perhaps, persuade the reader to a fresh point of view.  What executive writing does need are the four ‘Cs’: to be, correct; clear; concise and, where possible, conversational, that is, couched in the language of everyday speech.

Using good grammar and the correct punctuation is vital in all executive writing; faulty grammar makes the writer and, by inference, his or her organisation, appear unintelligent; bad punctuation can alter the meaning of a sentence or make it ambiguous so the reader is forced to read it two or more times to get the sense.  

Although we all know that good grammar and punctuation are essential tools, many people who are responsible for creating clear, concise executive documents and emails feel unsure about the rules; this is especially true of executives and staff whose first language in not English

John Harman’s interactive, PowerPoint based workshop, Getting to Grips with Grammar and Punctuation covers all the basics of both grammar and punctuation in a manner that enables those attending to come away with a much better understanding and working knowledge of the essentials. What’s more, quite a few participants have even enjoyed it.

At the end of the workshop participants take away a 40-page workbook which acts as a memory jogger for all the essentials covered throughout the day.   

The programme covers:


  • The Parts of a Sentence
  • The propositional content of sentences
  • The elements in the sentence
  • Sentence structure
  • Verbs as the powerhouse of the sentence
  • Getting subjects and verbs to agree
  • The clause as the basic unit of the sentence
  • Joining clauses and phrases


Why punctuate?

Punctuation exists to help the reader understand. Good punctuation shows the logical structure of a sentence, allowing readers to follow the message and understand the meaning without re-reading. For instance, without punctuation the sentence… Let’s eat Mum… has sinister overtones.

A lot of punctuation is about the correct way to join dependent and independent clauses.

The Elements of Punctuation

  • Apostrophes
  • Brackets
  • Colons
  • Commas
  • Dash
  • Ellipses
  • Full stop
  • Hyphen
  • Semi-colon
  • Parenthesis

Sorting out some ‘common confusables’ such as:

  • There, their and they’re
  • Affect and effect
  • Its and it’s
  • Alternate and alternative
  • Compliment and complement
  • Continuous and continual
  • Lay and lie

Noun forms end with ce; verbs end in se

  • advice and advise
  • practice and practise
  • licence and license
  • device and devise

Course Outcomes

Staff and executives will be more assured in their employment of grammar and punctuation, leading to less editing and rewriting time by senior management.

Documents leaving departments will be more succinct and technically accurate, thus reflecting well on the departments.

What some participants have said about this workshop

John Harman’s Getting to Grips with Grammar and Punctuationmakes a potentially boring subject interesting and alive.

I didn’t think I was actually going to enjoy it.

I thought I would be asleep within the first half an hour. john managed to make a boring subject entertaining.

A subject that I didn’t think was exciting did help me see things differently.

I enjoyed the course. It taught me some things that I didn’t know and others that you take for granted – paragraphs when writing, putting your commas in etc.

It resurrected old learning, and refreshed it in my mind.

I was amazed at how I enjoyed this course as I had expected it to be boring.

Source of comments supplied on request.

George Orwell, English author and journalist wrote, ‘If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.’