Book Review: EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES, by Lynne Truss

That's right, the full title of EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES is Eats, Shoots & Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Guide to Puncuation. Zero Tolerance. I love it. And if you're wondering where the "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" part comes in, the back of the book makes it perfectly clear:

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.
"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
"I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up."
The waiter turns to the relative entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.
"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

Truss's approach to punctuation education is witty and grand: she attacks misplaced apostrophe's; sticks up for the under-appreciated colons and semi-colons; bemoans the loss of proper grammar and puncuation in this age of txt msgs and email, all the while remaining funny and chipper and optimistic that people can still grasp the concept of a rightly-placed comma. EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES is the most readable guide to puncuation I've encountered--though normally I don't so much read them as run to them when I have a question--and she includes small, fascinating histories of each mark alongside the rules of the individual mark's proper usage (fortified with amusing examples of punctuation at work).

Her battle cry of "Sticklers unite!" brings joy into my snobbish little heart. After reading EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES, I feel both justified in my rejection of all-small-caps and emoticons, and slightly paranoid about my overly heavy use of --dashes-- and (parenthese). I pay entirely too much attention to each comma now, but I am also grateful for each comma, as they work tirelessly to keep my sloppy sentences in line. I highly recommend this "runaway #1 British bestseller" for everyone. A quick read, and very informative. Also full of funny British slang. I like British slang.


Some other excellent grammar/punctuation guides:

Strunk and White's classic, The Elements of Style,
and my personal favorites:
Karen Elizabeth Gordon's The Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed, and
The Transitive Vampire: A Guide to Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed.
They're illustrated, and full of absolutely hysterical examples (though it was recently brought to my attention that The Well-Tempered Sentence says naught about the apostrophe. How odd).

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