Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Eats, Shoots & Leaves Book Cover Eats, Shoots & Leaves
Lynne Truss
Language Arts & Disciplines
Profile Books Limited
2003
209

A witty, entertaining, impassioned guide to perfect punctuation, for everyone who cares about precise writing. Not a primer but a 'zero tolerance' manual for direct action. 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".

If you think grammar can’t be fun, this book is definitely for you.

As Louis Menand points out in his detailed criticism of Truss’s book, Truss’s goal is inspiration not perfection.

Though she has persuaded herself otherwise, Truss doesn’t want people to care about correctness. She wants them to care about writing and about using the full resources of the language. “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” is really a “decline of print culture” book disguised as a style manual (poorly disguised).

Menand’s criticisms are fun to read, but they don’t stop me from enjoying Truss’ work immensely. Truss makes thinking about grammar fun, which is why her work is among my top recommended references for writers. I hope you’ll join me in adding her work to your book collection, hopefully via my affiliate link, which you can get to via the link on her title.

Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves. The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. New York: Gotham Books, 2003, ISBN 1861976127.

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