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Eats, Shoots & Leaves : The Zero Tolerance…

Eats, Shoots & Leaves : The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (original 2003; edition 2006)

by Lynne Truss

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11,727263225 (3.81)220
My Achilles heel as a writer has always been commas. I hate them! At the newspaper where I used to work at I once had an editor tell me to start putting commas in wherever I didn’t have them and to delete all the ones I’d already put in.

Truss’ funny little book is a great rundown of the importance of punctuation. She includes lots of great anecdotes about funny punctuation mistakes, but also really helpful tips. I’ve always been particularly annoyed when people write “it’s” and mean “its.” I’m sure many other writers have their own grammatical pet peeves and she touches on most of them.

One point Truss makes, which I really agree with, is the importance of maintaining correct grammar in the new mediums we use. If texting, email and blogging have become our main forms of written communication (more than books, newspaper and magazines) then we shouldn’t be lax in the way we write. The fact that our way of communicating is changing so rapidly puts a stronger importance in making sure that communication is the best that it can be.

BOTTOM LINE: An entertaining and informative look at punctuation. Pick it up if you share her disdain for a misplaced apostrophe. ( )
3 vote bookworm12 | Apr 26, 2012 |
English (258)  Italian (2)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (263)
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I never thought I would enjoy a book about punctuation, but I enjoyed reading this as much as any novel, looking forward to getting into a new chapter (') every night. Truss's engaging and witty style of writing makes punctuation an exciting topic. "Sticklers" unite! ( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 14, 2015 |
from the convention; a light look at the different punctuation marks such as the apostrophe, semicolon, etc. Written by a Brit, she includes the nuances that vary in America. Lots of examples showing how different placement of punctuation, or no punctuation at all, can alter the meaning of the written word. In the end of the book, she takes on email and text messages - and their own brand of punctuation that's been introduced. An intriguing look at something not really thought about until you see it wrong in a book and wonder - did the author really mean that?! ( )
  nancynova | Jun 15, 2015 |
It's true, I really didn't read this when it came out. And having read it now, I can't feel too bad about that. I am emphatically not a linguistic prescriptivist, so the chapters on the terrible slow death of communication were nothing but grating to me. I did like the little histories, and Truss has a deft hand with an example, but overall I wasn't blown away. ( )
  jen.e.moore | May 28, 2015 |
This fun spin on a traditional grammar book is a great resource for any elementary school teacher, or any grammar teacher. for that manner, and for those who are irked by incorrectly constructed signs, aderts, or other public media. Lynne Truss takes her history as a word nerd who became an editor and writer and turns it into a fairly useful and very amusing grammar discussion and remedial text. Without embarrassment, she compells readers to join in her revulsion of bad grammar yet tolerance of grammatical preferences by highlighting examples of all kinds of istakes, arguments, and difficulties that arise from converting the spoken word into a written format. The layout and alignment are a traditional text, though the grammar examples are indented and the rules listed italicized. The overall tone is one of British bemusement at the state of the Queen's English, primarily in Britain itself. She even treats Americans fairer than other British authors in regard to the influence of American culture on British education, saying that it is not the fault of the influence, but the attitude of the teachers toward punctuation. The book serves to help illuminate the pitfalls of having an increasingly written public discourse with an decreasing emphasis on proper punctuation. ( )
  gemerritt | Apr 24, 2015 |
I read all the books like this that I can find. I used the bibliography of this to find more. I can't evaluate them objectively.

Ok, ETA. I just read and loved [b:The Fight for English: How Language Pundits Ate, Shot, and Left|542046|The Fight for English How Language Pundits Ate, Shot, and Left|David Crystal|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348717095s/542046.jpg|529385] which is a response to the 'zero-tolerance' part of Truss's book by the wonderful & wise [a:David Crystal|18265|David Crystal|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1273018417p2/18265.jpg]. He wrote about a lot more than just Truss in his concise overview, but I noted one thing he said that I want to mention here. He seems to think people are thinking of this book as a Usage Manual.

Gad I hope not! I mean, yes, Truss has some good tips. But this is popular because it's funny! It's tongue-in-cheek, almost a parody of punditry in some ways. Please, if you want a real usage manual, get something like [b:The Chicago Manual of Style/The Elements of Style|1320638|The Chicago Manual of Style/The Elements of Style|William Strunk|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348084714s/1320638.jpg|2176636] or a textbook or something. Read Truss for *fun.*

And read Crystal, too, for fun and for enlightenment. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
I love, love LOVE this book! ( )
  swingingnorske | Apr 7, 2015 |
A romp and a must for sticklers. If only all nonfiction were this much fun! ( )
  JMlibrarian | Mar 3, 2015 |
Amusing explanation of how to use punctuation correctly in the English language ( )
  LindaLiu | Feb 22, 2015 |
I bet it teaches you something! I thought I was pretty savvy on my punctuation, but I learned a few things from this. ( )
  humblewomble | Oct 19, 2014 |
Okay, Lynne Truss is a language fascist. But I like her neurosis. The language is on its way to becoming the world's language, but as with Latin it will devide into two main strains, the literary language, which preserves a number of the beautiful nuances that made English a wonderfully flexible tool for the expression of thought, and a demotic form whiich will share some elements of English's wonderfully flexible grammar with a diverging vocabulary. I'll be sorry for the growth of the demotic, loving to use the word "Fewer" to indicate nouns that have a different form when plural, rather than the demotic "less" for any plurality. Yes I even use words like plurality in its correct sense!
So hang in there, Lynne, keep punctuating above your weight! Forever! ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jun 9, 2014 |
This tome deserves high praise indeed. Lynne truss is excellent and knows her stuff so well that you will feel like a small student at a master's knee. She diligently argues that punctuation should not be placed aside and forgotten. That it makes your words come alive with vibrancy.

And her prose is such that you sit up and pay attention. It is not light reading for an afternoon's hour, but deserves to be given your focus so that you too will take on a little of her zeal in the fight to save the tools that make our words sing!

Citing many writers and providing examples Truss shows us and reminds us that there is craft to writing, and to using punctuation to elevate your thoughts to better than they are. To make your writing able to be admired for the way you craft it beyond what you say with them.

And that the art of this is falling away in our digital text/chat driven society. That we should remember that we who do write are guardians, placed with a sacred trust that when we write and attract many eyes to our tales, it gives us the chance to preach and proselytize to the masses who have become lazy with language.

If you are no longer a novice in the art of writing, or do care about what your words should do and be, then this is a book you must add to your library. Not just read it, but buy it, keep it, and place it in a place of reverence. ( )
2 vote DWWilkin | Mar 16, 2014 |
This was fun and entertaining and was a great help in repairing the damage my poetry degree did to my grammar. *g*

The only thing I really took issue with was her claim that people were no longer using commas before quoted dialogue. Maybe that's specific to British newspapers? I don't know. I just remember saying, "wait, what?" when I got to that part.

My edition came with punctuation to vandalize incorrectly punctuated public sign with, and that just makes me laugh and laugh. ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
Lynne Truss makes reading about punctuation fun! ( )
  jamesfallen | Feb 7, 2014 |
When I see the title of this book, I want to add an Oxford comma after Shoots, so you could say that it is no surprise that I liked this book. It certainly is a good read about punctuation with many historical anecdotes, cultural factoids, and a whole lot of humor. I am not a stickler, but I certainly appreciate it when people use punctuation to communicate well; however, I do worry that, because of this book, more and more people will start punctuating well and there will be nothing to laugh at in street signs, billboards, and on the subway (and there goes the Oxford comma, again. Yes, the comma goes inside the parentheses in our neck of the woods. Should I have capitalized "and?" I know, one is not supposed to start a sentence with "and," but that's just the way I like it.)

ps. One of my favorite street signs in the U.S. is similar to one mentioned in the book; it reads:
Slow children at play ( )
  bluepigeon | Dec 15, 2013 |
Simply, a book about punctuation. The history, misuse and creect use of all our little symbols. I found the book rather useful in terms of explaining why and how to use each mark. This book could have been under fifty pages if all that we wanted were the rules of punctuation, but the origin of each punctuation mark was often interesting. Where else would I have learned the differences between British and American punctuation? Where else would I learn that one of the punctuation marks has in the past been referred to as the 'dog's cock'? ( )
  dtn620 | Sep 22, 2013 |
This was a hard book to get through. I persevered. The writer overuses a very dry humor and didn't let up to the point where it became a constant haranguing drone. The tone got old after a few chapters. She would have done well to employ it in a few places throughout the book.

The reason I stuck with it had to do with the definitive lists of when to use apostrophes, commas, ellipses, dashes, etc which I found to be quite useful. I also found that her points about the changes in the way we use language, and punctuation in particular, to be quite interesting. ( )
  jlapac | Aug 14, 2013 |
Hilarious, educational, and it gave me that oh-so-subtle sheen of smugness that my grammar snobbery requires from time to time. Wonderful read. ( )
  benjamin.duffy | Jul 28, 2013 |
60% of "Eats Shoots & Leaves" is helpful. The rest is a person still writing smugly to Kerry-Anne. Except for that voice it was somewhat enjoyable. Now to find real guides on grammar; instead of self important rants. ( )
  Dalisdream | Jul 18, 2013 |
More fun than one would ever think punctuation could possibly be. ( )
  AlexTheHunn | Jun 28, 2013 |
can't figure out where to place your commas? you may not be saying what you're intending w/o this creative humourous presentation of punctuation! great opp to laughingly luv the learning! =)
( )
  FHC | Jun 13, 2013 |
A humorous look at the way the English language should be written. This book has a permanent place in my book collection, as it will be read again and again. I received it as a gift, and thought it would be a yawner; I was pleasantly surprised. It is an entertaining and fun experience for anyone who has an affinity for and interest in the English language.

The author, Lynn Truss is typically British, with a British sense of humor. She takes the reader on a fascinating journey into the reason why, with various illustrations correct punctuation is important in everyday writing. ( )
  MsJolee | Jun 10, 2013 |
This book inspired me to whip out a marker and edit a gas station sign that read, "Make sure the nozzle is hunged up before using your card." ( )
  katemo | May 16, 2013 |
As an erstwhile grammar pedant, I found a kindred spirit in Lynne Truss.

To clarify, I still care about grammar---my left eyelid twitches every time I see a whose/who's mistake---I just don't complain about it as loudly as I once did. I used to be an editor by profession, so for years I used that as my excuse for being annoying about grammar: I simply brought my work home with me. Then I started blogging and found that I was not nearly as thorough copy editing my own writing as I am with others' writing, so I called off my niggling. I still notice the mistakes, I just stay quiet about them and think poorly of the person who made them (unless it's a comma mistake. Those commas are slippery, and I dare not even think ill of someone who uses them improperly since I know that I will do it in the very next sentence I write).

My grammar hang-up is probably a big part of why I don't text. That and being too cheap to ante up the $0.10 per-message fee. Yes, I could buy a texting plan, but then I'd feel compelled to text to get my money's worth. I'd rather just be an inconvenience to my friends and family and force them to call me.

But, Lynne Truss's book.

I liked it. It was one of the books my spouse checked out from the library for me for Christmas. I'd been a little slow making my way through the stack, and he alerted me Sunday evening that he'd exhausted his renewals and the lot of them were due today (Wednesday). I was about halfway through Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris, so I powered through that and was done early Monday evening. With several hours to spare before my 1:30am bedtime, I went through the remaining books and picked the one I thought I'd be most likely to be able to power through between then and Wednesday morning. It was between this one and Yann Martel's Life of Pi, and I picked this one. (Now I'm really going to be talking about the book. I promise.)

So, I've said I liked it, and this is what I liked about it: Truss tackled a subject that's both dear to my heart and about which I feel a little embarrassed about how dear it is to my heart, and she did it with self-conscious (and occasionally self-deprecating) British humor. She took the subject seriously, but did so in a very funny way. I laughed out loud many times while reading this book.

Some specific examples of things that elicited a chuckle from me, startling my cats from my lap:

-Truss writes about James Thurber's long-term and argumentative professional relationship with New Yorker editor Harold Ross. "Thurber was once asked by a correspondent: 'Why did you have a comma in the sentence, "After dinner, the men went into the living-room"?' and his answer was probably one of the loveliest things ever said about punctuation. 'This particular comma,' Thurber explained, 'was Ross's way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up.'"

-"Now, so many highly respected writers adopt the splice comma that a rather unfair rule emerges on this one: only do it if you're famous." It took me more than ten years splicing commas (or rather, splicing together independent clauses with commas) on accident to finally learn how to use---and love---the semi-colon. In other words, I like this joke because I finally get it.

-Truss illustrated the importance of the hyphen by pointing out the difference between "extra-marital sex" and "extra marital sex."

And, finally, one that affects me personally, since I have a "double-barrelled name":

"I have heard that people with double-barrelled names are simply unable to get the concept across these days, because so few people on the other end of a telephone know what a hyphen is."

I discovered early on that I must say "dash" if I want someone to understand what goes between my two last names. And still people frequently try to use my first last name as my first name. I've actually had people correct me when I've told them my full name. My spouse has the same hyphenated surname, and he has it even worse because both of our last names can be male first names. It's a good thing we don't get too uppity about what we're called.

At any rate, I'm glad that I got this one in---just under the wire, too. I finished it at 8:22am; the kids and I leave for the library at 9:00am. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | May 4, 2013 |
I bet it teaches you something! I thought I was pretty savvy on my punctuation, but I learned a few things from this. ( )
  heterocephalusglaber | Apr 26, 2013 |
I love this book. It's also true that I really like punctuation - but even if I didn't, this book would still crack me up, I swear. I think. ( )
  astrologerjenny | Apr 25, 2013 |
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