Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation Paperback – April 11, 2006
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From the Back Cover
Eats, Shoots & Leaves "makes correct usage so cool that you have to admire Ms. Truss."
JANET MASLIN, THE NEW YORK TIMES
"Witty, smart, passionate."
LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW, BEST BOOKS OF 2004: NONFICTION
"Who knew grammar could be so much fun?"
"Witty and instructive. . . . Truss is an entertaining, well-read scold in a culture that could use more scolding."
"Truss is William Safire crossed with John Cleeses Basil Fawlty."
"Lynne Truss has done the English-speaking world a huge service."
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
"This book changed my life in small, perfect ways like learning how to make better coffee or fold an omelet. Its the perfect gift for anyone who cares about grammar and a gentle introduction for those who dont care enough."
THE BOSTON SUNDAY GLOBE
"Lynne Truss makes [punctuation] a joy to contemplate."
"If Lynne Truss were Roman Catholic Id nominate her for sainthood."
Frank McCourt, author of Angelas Ashes
"Trusss scholarship is impressive and never dry."
EDMUND MORRIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
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And that's not the only problem. It is appalling to see someone who is belittling others for their ignorance then point out that she herself is not a grammarian and believes that knowledge of subordinate clauses "is not a prerequisite for caring about where a bracket is preferred to a dash, or a comma needs to be replaced by a semicolon." Actually, you cannot properly punctuate a complex or compound-complex sentence unless you understand subordinate clauses--they often need commas, and many of her subordinate clauses are incorrectly punctuated. You also need grammar to understand that commas should not be between the verb and its direct object, between a preposition and its object, etc. Without a firm understanding of grammar, it is impossible to even discuss why a comma should or should not be in a particular place in a sentence.
I don't ordinarily go around pointing this out about someone's writing in reviews, but since the entire purpose here is to discuss punctuation, it seems appropriate.
She also makes a huge deal about some movie called Two Weeks Notice and how she feels that the title needed an apostrophe. Again, knowledge of grammar comes in handy here: the argument can be made that in that phrase, "two weeks" is descriptive, not possessive, and therefore, no apostrophe is necessary.
All in all, I'm not happy with this book, and I wish I had checked it out from the library instead of buying it.
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"...
The only reason I didn’t give the book 5 stars was because it is more than a little condescending. The author even boasts about her own snobbery.
That’s all fine and good. I get it. Sticklers unite. That’s her thing, and she decided to own it. Good for her. But holy crap. Also, woven throughout are a lot of stabs at American grammar and punctuation. She isn’t shy about making fun of Americans. And that’s a pretty big group of people to poke fun at.
I know she thinks a lot of American punctuation rules are stupid, but, well, I feel the same way about a lot of British punctuation rules. I think it would be a little more fair to admit there are some strange rules on both sides of the coin. But whatever.
Her cattiness aside, I liked the book a lot.
Love the book!
Top international reviews
If I was rating this book solely on how much I enjoyed reading it, I would only award it one star. The mixture of anecdotes and factual content just didn’t appeal to me. It read as though it was constantly floundering between genres of non-fiction, humour and memoir.
On the positive side, this book does explain all the rules of punctuation, the exceptions to those rules, and examples that fall in to the ‘sometimes it’s this, but sometimes it’s that’ category. However, they’re buried within a vast array of quotes and anecdotes that are taken from an equally diverse range of sources. Anything from ancient tomes to modern signage provides grist to the author’s considerable mill.
The downside, at least for me, was the author’s rhetoric. I can understand anyone noticing punctuation errors, and either responding with mild annoyance, or simply finding them amusing, but the author voices strong objection to them all. I admire those who express a genuine passion for their chosen subject, unfortunately Ms Truss frequently came across as obsessive and lecturing.
Overall, the book is authoritative and extensively researched, it just wasn’t pleasing to read. With salient points regarding the art of correct punctuation being so scattered among literary window dressing, it doesn’t lend itself to being an effective reference book either. It’s all there, just not in a package I liked.
Lynne has managed to take a rather dull and tedious subject — that of punctuation — and made it interesting and fun to learn.
Yes, it can come across as nothing but a curmudgeon having a rant, but it’s an intelligent curmudgeon having an amusing rant that is very educational.
We are now in an age where the written word is being used more than any other time in history to communicate; most people barely talk any more, preferring to text, or email, rather than pick up the phone or visit in person. At no other time in history has the correct meaning and interpretation of the written word been more important, while punctuation, which gives the meaning and interpretation to the written word, is so utterly neglected and misunderstood.
Yes, punctuation is important, and while some of it is art, a lot of it is not:
… is there any art involved in using the apostrophe? No. Using the apostrophe correctly is a mere negative proof: it tells the world you are not a thicko.
Whether or not you think your punctuation could use a little housekeeping, this is a fun and interesting book to read and you will learn a few things while reading it: well worth it!
I went to school in the 1980s when there was a move away from the more traditional 3 R approach to reading and writing and arithmetic (surely that's 1 R, a W and an A?) to a more phonetic approach. Students learned to spell by sounding out words, which left me with not only a spoken Fife accent but also a badly mis-spelled one; and how to punctuate by, I guess osmosis. In fact the only teaching I remember of punctuation at school was my primary school headmaster confidently telling our class that when it comes to punctuation, "if in doubt, leave it out". I have therefore remained relatively impermeable to the subtitles of punctuation unless my word processor tells me otherwise.
I read this book hoping for a light hearted way to improve my deficiencies, but as entertaining as it is, a lot of what I've never truly grasped just went in one eyeball and out the other.
But; then again this is not a text book on grammar (thank god for that!) and instead is full of anecdotes of punctuation faux pas aimed squarely at those who know their semi colons from a sigmoid colon. As someone who once mixed up the later at a pub quiz there was a lot of this book I just didn't get.
If you do and want a good laugh along the way, then this is the book for you. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Good companion to Trask on punctuation.
A book for everyone and anyone who wants to help maintain the integrity of the English language. It'll show that to be understood without misunderstanding, one needs punctuate sentences in the right way.
Should be prescribed reading and studying in all schools and colleges teaching or lecturing in the English language. It'll help English teachers instil a sense of appreciation of well-spoken and well-written English.
A much needed vanguard against the laziness encouraged by text messaging.