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Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation Paperback – April 11, 2006
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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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard at a book. She has some really clever insight into grammar without being overcome by cynicism.
It is interesting to read about the state of grammar in the UK as well. It really defies the stereotype that many Americans have about Brits being stuffy and proper all the time.
Even though it isn't a grammar guide, she does offer some tips on usage. I was pleased she clarified the semicolon and colon issue and included several examples. At the same time this wasn't a "montage" of real-world grammar blunders with her corrects and/or snide comments, either.
But if you enjoy reading about grammar for fun at all, you'll probably enjoy this book. And even if not, you still might appreciate her witty and sardonic style.
And yes, she probably would disapprove of me starting my sentences with "and"...
...and it's humerous too boot!
While the author is from the UK and explains usage common in that region, she also remarks on US usage where it differs. I was surprised to learn that there were regional differences and also that the proper use of punctuation marks is changing--and it always has over time.
In addition to being a book that comments on the use (or common misuse) of proper puctuation it is also organized in such a way that people who write can reference a certain item (do you have to use a period after Mr?) and read up if they have a question.
People writing e-books might especially appreciate this as many write without an editor; a fun book that makes punctuation accessible without suffering through Strunk and White is very welcome.
Since I am a passionate reader and a writer, books about punctuation and grammar interest me. Back when I worked in editorial offices, nothing was more delightful than a debate with fellow journalists on the relative merits of the semi-colon over period. (Some thought that the semi-colon was pretentious.) Going back even further, as a young woman, I was a devotee of the great NYT columnist William Safire and Edwin Newman, the journalist who wrote "Strictly Speaking," one of the funniest books on the hackneyed use of the English.
Based on those esteemed predecessors, this book didn't hit the mark. It was good, and the author is passionate about punctuation, and I did learn a few things. One major issue is that punctuation is not the same on the other side of the pond (the U.K.), where marks have different names, are used (or not used) differently and us colonial types are referred to as "the" Americans as if we were a rather daunting opponent in the war against bad punctuation.
If you are a writer or a grammarian, this book will add to your knowledge. If you are simply looking for some grammatical entertainment, try Mr. Safire or Mr. Newman.