Are Punctuation and Grammar Quandaries Punching Holes in Your Productivity?

Ever had an argument with a colleague about the commas in a sentence like the following?   The battery pack gives you several options:  6 hours, 4 hours, 3 hours and 40 minutes, 2 hours and 45 minutes.  Is that four options or five options?  A comma before the last and makes it clear.   But do you ALWAYS need a comma before that last and?  Answer:  No, the serial comma is optional.  But you’re always safe to use it for clarity sake—as illustrated in the “battery-pack” sentence.

Here are a couple tips to prevent grammar gaffes and save you a few minutes in reaching for a reference book:

• The assure/insure/ensure dilemma:  (All three words mean to give a guarantee—but they aren’t interchangeable.) Use assure only when you’re referring to someone talking or writing.  Use insure only when you’re talking about a monetary payment.  Use ensure for all other situations.
• Myself or me?  Wrong:  For prompt payment, send the invoice to Kerry or myself.  Right:  For prompt payment, send the invoice to Kerry or me.   Never use myself unless I or me is already used in the sentence; it’s used to add emphasis to those words.  (Example:  I told him myself.)
• To Capitalize or Not?   Think “brand name” or generic.  If the word under consideration is the brand name of something, capitalize it.  If not, don’t.  Example:  He works at Universal as a vice president.  He works at my company as a vice president.  Vice President Jim Tuttle works in my department.

Need more help?  Booher’s Rules for Business Grammar: 101 Fast and Easy Ways to Correct the Most Common Errors  (McGraw-Hill) by Dianna Booher provides 101 more entertaining, brief chapters (most 1-2 pages) that focus on the common mistakes heard every day on the job.  The “memory tricks” at the end of each chapter solidify the rule for the next time and the next, saving you valuable look-up time!

(Another tip:  If you want to check for a skills gap in this area first, you can take a free online assessment at



  1. I have had such conversations, but as I wrote in my blog recently, I have a grammar obsession. This can be good but it has drawbacks too.