What you didn’t learn at school – and why

My business is helping people to improve their personal communication skills – in other words, the way they interact with other people either in writing or speaking.

This covers a wide field, and can also bring in issues such as conversational skills, accents, self-confidence, self-esteem and what sort of image of ourselves we want to show to others. Sometimes I work with individuals as a tutor, sometimes I deliver training courses and workshops to groups, but the object is always the same: to demonstrate how to be a more effective communicator.

Some of my clients are business people who are self-conscious at meetings, some have an important speech or presentation to give and need some help with technique. Some speak English as their second language (or third or fourth) and want to speak it naturally way the British do, rather than in the stilted version they learned at school in their home country.

Yet although personal communication is a wide and varied subject, I have noticed some common threads running through the hundreds of clients I have tutored or trained. One of them is anxiety about the use – or rather misuse – of English grammar, spelling and punctuation. I know that in the UK alone there are thousands of people, many in very responsible jobs, who worry that their poor grasp of the ‘rules’ of English language is letting them down. In a way they are right. Like it or not, other people do judge us by how we speak and write, and not just by what we say. They make assumptions about our origins, our education and even our intelligence and competence based only on how we pronounce words or construct a sentence. As somebody said, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

In fact if some of my clients are a bit weak when it comes to grammatical ‘rules’, that is not necessarily their fault. In the first place English is a very flexible, not to mention eccentric, language and its very lack of rules can make it baffling to learn and use. Secondly, there was a period when strict teaching of grammar, spelling and punctuation was rather out of fashion. If you happened to go to school during that period, you may not have been taught what is in this book. On the other hand, you may have been looking out of the window and not paying attention, so let’s not be too quick to blame the education system, shall we.

My experience with individual clients has led me to develop a series of training sessions called ‘English Language for Grownups’.

These are for anyone who feels they need a grounding – or a refresher – in the basics of spelling, grammar and punctuation in English. It’s not like school though – it’s more fun and there are no exams.

The first sessions – called, imaginatively, Part1 – will be held in the Constanze Suite,  Kaffeehaus Amadeus, 1 Percy Crescent, Station Road, Lanchester, County Durham DH7 0EU on Wednesday 16 March  and again on Wednesday 23 March 2016, from 9 am  to 12.30pm.


The special launch price of £99 includes delicious Kaffeehaus elevenses, bottomless coffee and tea, croissants, cheese, ham, savoury nibbles etc, and everyone attending will receive a free copy of my book ‘Grammar Gaffes’.


Interested? Book online here, or email andy@andycollinspr.co.uk for more details.