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Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation Hardcover – January 2, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-1861976123 ISBN-10: 1861976127

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Who would have thought a book about punctuation could cause such a sensation? Certainly not its modest if indignant author, who began her surprise hit motivated by "horror" and "despair" at the current state of British usage: ungrammatical signs ("BOB,S PETS"), headlines ("DEAD SONS PHOTOS MAY BE RELEASED") and band names ("Hear'Say") drove journalist and novelist Truss absolutely batty. But this spirited and wittily instructional little volume, which was a U.K. #1 bestseller, is not a grammar book, Truss insists; like a self-help volume, it "gives you permission to love punctuation." Her approach falls between the descriptive and prescriptive schools of grammar study, but is closer, perhaps, to the latter. (A self-professed "stickler," Truss recommends that anyone putting an apostrophe in a possessive "its"-as in "the dog chewed it's bone"-should be struck by lightning and chopped to bits.) Employing a chatty tone that ranges from pleasant rant to gentle lecture to bemused dismay, Truss dissects common errors that grammar mavens have long deplored (often, as she readily points out, in isolation) and makes elegant arguments for increased attention to punctuation correctness: "without it there is no reliable way of communicating meaning." Interspersing her lessons with bits of history (the apostrophe dates from the 16th century; the first semicolon appeared in 1494) and plenty of wit, Truss serves up delightful, unabashedly strict and sometimes snobby little book, with cheery Britishisms ("Lawks-a-mussy!") dotting pages that express a more international righteous indignation.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

This impassioned manifesto on punctuation made the best-seller lists in Britain and has followed suit here. Journalist Truss gives full rein to her "inner stickler" in lambasting common grammatical mistakes. Asserting that punctuation "directs you how to read in the way musical notation directs a musician how to play," Truss argues wittily and with gusto for the merits of preserving the apostrophe, using commas correctly, and resurrecting the proper use of the lowly semicolon. Filled with dread at the sight of ubiquitous mistakes in store signs and headlines, Truss eloquently speaks to the value of punctuation in preserving the nuances of language. Liberally sprinkling the pages with Briticisms ("Lawks-a-mussy") and moving from outright indignation to sarcasm to bone-dry humor, Truss turns the finer points of punctuation into spirited reading. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 209 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books Ltd (January 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861976127
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861976123
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (808 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,928,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lynne Truss is a writer and journalist who started out as a literary editor with a blue pencil and then got sidetracked. The author of three novels and numerous radio comedy dramas, she spent six years as the television critic of The Times of London, followed by four (rather peculiar) years as a sports columnist for the same newspaper. She won Columnist of the Year for her work for Women's Journal. Lynne Truss also hosted Cutting a Dash, a popular BBC Radio 4 series about punctuation. She now reviews books for the Sunday Times of London and is a familiar voice on BBC Radio 4. She lives in Brighton, England.

Customer Reviews

If you don't know the difference between 'its' and 'it's', then it's time you read this book.
Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Lynne Truss found a way to have every page of her book about punctuation be really, really fun to read and chock full of witty humor.
Stephen Wurz
Lynne Truss, an English grammarian and author of EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES, is bloody fed up with it!
Allen Smalling

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

197 of 216 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Readers, check your reaction to the following sentence:
Lynne Truss, an English grammarian is bloody fed up with sloppy punctuation.
Does that sentence leave you feeling confused, irritated, or angry? Do you feel you have to second-guess the author of the sentence, forced to ascertain whether s/he was writing to Lynne Truss or about Ms. Truss?

But that sort of thing is almost the norm these days, on both sides of the Atlantic. Of course, we Americans have been struggling for years with FRESH DONUT'S DAILY and Your Server: "MILLY" -- not to mention the archy-and-mehitabel school of e-mail that neither capitalizes nor punctuates and reading through this kind of sentence really gets confusing i think it does at least do you too?

Turns out that even the British--including the elite "Oxbridge" inteligentsia--are wildly ignorant of punctuation's rules and standards. Lynne Truss, an English grammarian and author of EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES, is bloody fed up with it! So she wrote this handy little book that is ever-so-correct but not condescending, sometimes savage but not silly, full of mission and totally without mush.

Think of Truss as punctuation's own Miss Manners, a combination of leather and lace, with maybe a bit more emphasis on the leather. (She advocates forming possees to paint out incorrect apostrophes in movie placards.) But her examples of bad punctuation serve a purpose: bad punctuation distorts meaning. EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES includes numerous hilarious backfires of punctuation -- statements and missives that use the exact same words but convey totally opposite messages due to inappropriate punctuation.
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68 of 73 people found the following review helpful By dennis wentraub on June 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here's a small book you'll want to stuff in your pocket for that next flight or train trip to pass the time and avoid the embarrassment of having to explain to people you know that you're chuckling over a book on punctuation. Oddly enough the quite funny joke on which the title is based only appears on the dust jacket. But there is enough deadpan humor, historical trivia, and useful information in this modest work to make up for the lapse. If you think punctuation is just a collection of gratuitous furbelows with strict rules intended to keep grade school teachers, snobs, and compulsive personalities preoccupied, take a deep breath. To be sure our author Lynne Truss is a punctuation vigilante and does not take these matters lightly. Offenses to the language put her into a royal snit. Her temperament inclines to "zero tolerance", but in practice Truss recognizes the need for flexibility. The written presentation of our language is dynamic and continues to evolve. The preservation of punctuation rather than a fussy observance of rules is her goal. Maybe just maybe that preservation motive explains her regret at not mothering the children of the 16th century Venetian printer, Aldus Manutius the Elder, for whom we have to thank for italics and semicolons.
Our present day punctuation began with Greek dramatists providing actors with cues for their onstage delivery. With the development of printing, printers became the innovators for this notational art. Over time conventions developed governing their use and were codified as rules. Creative types bristle at most forms of restraint. Gertrude Stein thought commas to be "servile", semicolons "pretentious", and question marks "completely uninteresting".
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85 of 93 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"If there is one lesson that is to be learned from this book, it is that there is never a dull moment in the world of punctuation." Perhaps that is hyperbole, but there is never a dull moment in _Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation_ (Gotham Books) by Lynne Truss. Surely the book will not be the sensation it was in Britain, but it is witty, informative, and entertaining; you can't ask for more from a punctuation manual. And if you do not yet think that punctuation is important, you will after you see all the misunderstandings a little comma can cause. Take the peculiar title, which is from a joke: A panda goes into a café, orders a sandwich, eats it, takes out a revolver, fires it into the air, and goes out. When the waiter calls to ask what is going on, the panda plunks a badly punctuated wildlife manual onto the table and growls: "Look me up." The waiter finds the entry: "PANDA. Large, black-and-white, bear-like mammal native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves." Oh, let's have one more. There was an American actor playing Duncan in _Macbeth_, listening with concern to the battle story of a wounded soldier, who cheerfully called out: "Go get him, surgeons!" Misplaced comma; it should of course be: "Go, get him surgeons!" Another story related here, a true one, shows that a comma can literally be a life-or-death matter.
The book is zero tolerance indeed. Truss says it doesn't matter if you have a PhD and have read all of Henry James twice, "If you still persist in writing, 'Good food at it's best', you deserve ..." and she lists some ghastly punishments.
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