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Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuationby Lynne Truss
Synopses & Reviews
We all know the basics of punctuation. Or do we? A look at most neighborhood signage tells a different story. Through sloppy usage and low standards on the internet, in email, and now text messages, we have made proper punctuation an endangered species. In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Lynne Truss dares to say, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled. From the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, this lively history makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with.
"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. Agent, George Lucas. (On sale Apr. 13)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"If Lynne Truss were Roman Catholic I'd nominate her for sainthood....The book is so spirited, so scholarly, so seductive, English teachers will sweep aside all other topics to get to, you guessed it, punctuation. Parents and children gather by the fire on chilly evenings to read passages on the history of the semi-colon and the much-maligned dash. Make way for the new Cinderella of the English language, Punctuation Herself!" Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes and 'Tis
"There is a multitude of us riding this planet for whom apostrophe catastrophes, quotation bloatation, mad dashes, and other comma-tose errors squeak like chalk across the blackboard of our sensibilities. At last we who are punctilious about punctuation have a manifesto, and it is titled Eats, Shoots & Leaves." Richard Lederer, author of A Man of My Words and Anguished English
"At long last, a worthy tribute to punctuation's stepchildren: the neglected semicolon, the enigmatic ellipsis and the mad dash. Punc-rock on!" James Lipton, author of An Exaltation of Larks and writer and host of Inside the Actors Studio
"To her credit, Truss is never pedantic...Her scholarship is impressive and never dry." Edmund Morris, The New York Times Book Review
We all know the basics of punctuation — or do we? In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Truss dares to say, in her delightfully witty way, that it is time to institute a zero tolerance approach to punctuation.
A panda walked into a cafe. He ordered a sandwich, ate it, then pulled out a gun and shot the waiter. 'Why?' groaned the injured man. The panda shrugged, tossed him a badly punctuated wildlife manual, and walked out. And sure enough, when the waiter consulted the book, he found an explanation. Panda, ran the entry for his assailant. 'Large black and white mammal native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'
We see signs in shops every day for "Banana's" and even "Gateaux's". Competition rules remind us: "The judges decision is final." Now, many punctuation guides already exist explaining the principles of the apostrophe; the comma; the semi-colon. These books do their job but somehow punctuation abuse does not diminish. Why? Because people who can't punctuate don't read those books! Of course they don't! They laugh at books like those! Eats, Shoots and Leaves adopts a more militant approach and attempts to recruit an army of punctuation vigilantes: send letters back with the punctuation corrected. Do not accept sloppy emails. Climb ladders at dead of night with a pot of paint to remove the redundant apostrophe in "Video's sold here."
The spirited and scholarly #1 New York Times bestseller combines boisterous history with grammar how-to’s to show how important punctuation is in our world—period.
In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Lynne Truss, gravely concerned about our current grammatical state, boldly defends proper punctuation. She proclaims, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. Using examples from literature, history, neighborhood signage, and her own imagination, Truss shows how meaning is shaped by commas and apostrophes, and the hilarious consequences of punctuation gone awry.
Featuring a foreword by Frank McCourt, and interspersed with a lively history of punctuation from the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, Eats, Shoots & Leaves makes a powerful case for the preservation of proper punctuation.
Praise for Lynne Truss and Eats, Shoots & Leaves:
Eats, Shoots & Leaves“makes correct usage so cool that you have to admire Ms. Truss”
Â—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Witty, smart, passionate”
Â—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”
Â—USA Today“Truss is William Safire crossed with John Clees‛s Basil Fawlty”
“Lynne Truss has done the English-speaking world a huge service”
Â—The Christian Science Monitor
“This book changed my life in small, perfect ways like learning how to make better coffee or fold an omelet. I‛s the perfect gift for anyone who cares about grammar and a gentle introduction for those who do‛t care enough”
Â—The Boston Sunday Globe
“Lynne Truss makes [punctuation] a joy to contemplate”
“If Lynne Truss were Roman Catholic ‛d nominate her for sainthood” Â—Frank McCourt, author of Angel‛s Ashes
“Trus‛s scholarship is impressive and never dry”
Â—Edmund Morris, The New York Times Book Review
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.
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