Buckingham Termination Letter: An Initial Analysis of Grammar and Style

The following reproduces the body of the letter terminating Dr. Robert Buckingham’s tenure and deanship of the School of Public Health, University of Saskatchewan, with inserted comments to help in revision.

I have become aware of a document entitled ‘The Silence of the Deans’ and attachments, the contents of which demonstrates [subject/verb agreement] that your relationship with the University of Saskatchewan is [“to be” renders the sentence static, a statement of being, rather than of action] irreparably damaged. I write to advise you [formulaic tautology: the recipient has the letter] that you have breached your employment contract with the university [comma needed] and [needs “that” to maintain parallelism] your employment as Executive Director, School of Public Health and Full Professor in the School of Public Health is terminated [statement of being displaces or cloaks agency] immediately, for just cause for the following reasons:

  • Your statements contained in the above-mentioned document is [subject/verb agreement] a violation [wordy construction: consider revising: “violates the employment contract”] of the employment contract in its entirety, and specifically [comma needed] the confidentiality clause contained in your letter of offer dated April 30, 2009. By accepting the letter of offer [comma needed] you agreed that you would not release or divulge confidential or proprietary information with which you are entrusted. [Coherence: Tie back to point of letter.]
  • In publicly challenging the directions given to you by both the president of the university, [delete comma] and the provost, you have demonstrated egregious conduct and insubordination and have destroyed your relationship with the senior leadership team of the University [inconsistent capitalization].
  • By broadly distributing the above-mentioned document, you have damaged the reputation of the university, the president, and the school, and have damaged the university’s relationship with key stakeholders and partners, including the public, the government [comma needed] and your university colleagues.
  • By your conduct [comma needed] you have violated your employment contract, you have breached the trust given to you in your role [comma needed] and you failed [flawed parallelism] to demonstrate integrity and ethical conduct which [either use “that” for restrictive modification, or “, which” for non-restrictive] are required competencies of your position.

This letter is also to advise you that the administrative leave scheduled to begin July 1, 2014 is hereby revoked [wordy structure: statement of being, not action] and that all commitments made in the letter of April 15, 2014 are null and void [as before].

You will receive your final pay on May 30, 2014, as per the normal payroll cycle. You are to leave campus immediately and are not to return to your office, the School of Public Health [comma needed] or the university. All benefits and pension cease as of today [ambiguous: “today” for writer or reader?].

Please contact Tracy Thornton, Senior Analyst, Human Resources [comma needed] at 966-2166 to make arrangements for the return of university equipment and your office keys, as well as to arrange a time that is appropriate [wordy structure] to collect any remaining personal effects.


Grammar errors: repeated problems with sub/verb agreement; flawed parallelism.

Punctuation: problems with comma use in sentence and series construction.

Stylistic concerns:

Passive/active voice: Buckingham’s actions represented through active voice (“you have breached”) while university’s actions use wordier statements of existence (“the administrative leave . . . is hereby revoked”).

Repeated use of static “to be”: “X is Y.” Consider using active verbs: “Your actions have irreparably damaged . . . .” vs “Your relationship is irreparably damaged.”

That/Which: Conventional use of “that” for restrictive modifiers not in evidence.


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