Brush up your grammar

Who is this course suitable for?

This course is for those who've forgotten or are hazy about the rules of English grammar. It may appeal to several kinds of people:

  • those who just want a bit of a reminder
  • those who feel they never learnt enough grammar
  • those who did learn grammar but have lost confidence in using it

Course description

The course includes information and exercises on sentence elements, verbs, pronouns, punctuation and usage. It encourages students to think critically about the sentences they encounter. It also equips them to put things right where necessary, and to know when something is good enough, for example, in a particular context or language register. 

'Brush up your grammar' was originally written by Valerie Elliston, and then for many years given by Lesley Ward, both founder members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. It has been updated and improved almost every time it's been delivered, and its dry humour makes what many people think of as an unpalatable and formulaic subject both interesting and of immediate practical use.

What you should know after the course

After this course you should feel confident of picking up ungrammatical expressions in work you are proofreading or copy-editing. Perhaps just as importantly, you will have a good idea of when to ‘leave well enough alone', particularly if you are proofreading far down the production process.

Availability, prices and upgrade points

  Workshop Online
Price (members)    
Price (non-members)    
SfEP upgrade points 3 4
  Book now Book now

Other price discounts are available. See the fees page.

All workshops take place over 1 day. Online courses take between 10 and 35 hours to complete, but you have access to the course materials for 4 or 5 months (depending on the course).


Workshop syllabus

Length of course: 1 day SfEP upgrade points: 3

The precise syllabus and timings may vary slightly on the day.

Syllabus and timing
9.30 Introductions and course outline:
  • basic terminology
9.45 Verbs and agreement
10.45 Modifiers; that and which
11.15 Break
11.30 Punctuation:
  • commas and lists
  • colons and semicolons
  • apostrophes
  • em and en rules
1.00 Lunch
1.45 Common problems and some solutions:
  • misplaced correlative
  • mistaken correlation
  • may and might
  • tautology
  • ellipsis
  • ambiguity and nonsense
  • pronoun antecedent and other pronoun problems
3.15 Break
3.30 Pitfalls and pet peeves
4.15 Resources
4.30 Close

Online course structure

Time allowed for access: 4 months SfEP upgrade points: 4
Approximate study time needed to complete the course: 20–25 hours

This is a self-assessed course. You will be assigned a tutor who will be available for up to 1 hour of support (usually by email), but the tutor does not mark any of your work. When you have finished the course you can download and print a certificate that states that you have ‘Completed' the course.

Brush Up Your Grammar

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