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Eats, Shoots and Leaves [Paperback]

Lynne Truss
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (247 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 11 2006
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.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

This impassioned manifesto on punctuation made the best-seller lists in Britain and has followed suit here. Journalist Truss gives full rein to her "inner stickler" in lambasting common grammatical mistakes. Asserting that punctuation "directs you how to read in the way musical notation directs a musician how to play," Truss argues wittily and with gusto for the merits of preserving the apostrophe, using commas correctly, and resurrecting the proper use of the lowly semicolon. Filled with dread at the sight of ubiquitous mistakes in store signs and headlines, Truss eloquently speaks to the value of punctuation in preserving the nuances of language. Liberally sprinkling the pages with Briticisms ("Lawks-a-mussy") and moving from outright indignation to sarcasm to bone-dry humor, Truss turns the finer points of punctuation into spirited reading. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Friendly Read June 21 2005
I picked this book up after seeing the book shoot up the best seller list. I figured if a book on punctuation could be a number one best seller, then I should probably give it a read; and I am happy to report that I was not disappointed.
The author does a great job of writing about punctuation and explaining why certain things (like the missing comma in Two Weeks Notice) drive her batty. Batty to the point of advocating those legions of punctuation devotees get themselves sets of commas and apostrophes, and enter into the world to rid it of all the bad grammar that is taking place out there.
For anyone who has been annoyed to see things spelt incorrectly or witnessed first hand the poor use of grammar that gets put on street signs and advertisement, this book is definitely up your alley. And for those of us, like me, who just want a good comical read this book is definitely a must have too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Entertaining July 10 2004
By Westley
"Eats, Shoots & Leaves" is not a grammar guide per se, as it doesn't really teach the basics of punctuation. Instead, it's a grammarians dream come true - an enjoyable and illuminating discussion of the history and importance of punctuation (Hmmmm, did I use that dash correctly?). Lovers of punctuation have been decrying the use of "netspeak" with no or minimal punctuation. Accordingly, Truss wrote this engaging book with the rallying cry: "Sticklers unite!" However, Truss does not simply attack the web; indeed, she asserts that text messaging and email have made reading more important than it has been of late. However, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It's the punctuation stupid!"
Truss's dry British wit (e.g., talking about wanting to marry the inventor of the colon) is used to great effect in her writing. And amusing vignettes are peppered through the text, including the introduction of the "interrobang" as well as the spread of the "Strukenwhite" virus. She even manages to make punctuation seem, well, sexy. If you've ever found yourself in a spirited debate about the Oxford comma (i.e., the second comma in the phrase "red, white, and blue"), then you'll likely enjoy this book.
Some reviewers have asserted that American readers may be a bit lost; however, Truss is careful about pointing out American versus British punctuation uses. I was never confused. Overall, this book is delightful - most highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is John Updike a Menace to Society? May 27 2004
Readers, check your reaction to the following sentence:
Lynne Truss, an English grammarian is bloody fed up with sloppy punctuation.
Does that sentence leave you feeling confused, irritated, or angry? Do you feel you have to second-guess the author of the sentence, forced to ascertain whether s/he was writing to Lynne Truss or about Ms. Truss?
But that sort of thing is almost the norm these days, on both sides of the Atlantic. Of course, we Americans have been struggling for years with FRESH DONUT'S DAILY and Your Server: "MILLY" -- not to mention the archy-and-mehitabel school of e-mail that neither capitalizes nor punctuates and reading through this kind of sentence really gets confusing i think it does at least do you too?
Turns out that even the British--including the elite "Oxbridge" inteligentsia--are wildly ignorant of punctuation's rules and standards. Lynne Truss, an English grammarian and author of EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES, is bloody fed up with it! So she wrote this handy little book that is ever-so-correct but not condescending, sometimes savage but not silly, full of mission and totally without mush.
Think of Truss as punctuation's own Miss Manners, a combination of leather and lace, with maybe a bit more emphasis on the leather. (She advocates forming possees to paint out incorrect apostrophes in movie placards.) But her examples of bad punctuation serve a purpose: bad punctuation distorts meaning. EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES includes numerous hilarious backfires of punctuation -- statements and missives that use the exact same words but convey totally opposite messages due to inappropriate punctuation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Harry Potter of Grammar Books Aug. 22 2004
By A Customer
I don't normally read books on grammar or writing but maybe I ought to since this one was so interesting and entertaining. Some people I see have complaints about some of the inconsistencies in the grammar Truss herself uses. I don't know about that. I can say she has done a tremendous service to get the public talking about the nuts and bolts of the English language. That's amazing!
If you're looking for a powerfully good novel to read, I can vouch for A SECRET WORD, AMAGANSETT, and BIRTH OF VENUS.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quick read -- and you'll learn something! May 20 2004
This is a great book (and a quick read!) that will appeal to several kinds of people:
- those who are sticklers for punctuation
- those who missed out on learning about punctuation in school
- and those who don't understand why some people care so much about punctuation.
The book presents many basic rules of punctuation in a fun way. It's a good book for people interested in learning or reviewing punctuation marks: apostrophes, commas, semicolons, colons, exclamation marks, question marks, quotations marks, and dashes.
Don't skip the last chapter. It's an insightful discussion of the future of punctuation and the impacts of email and text messaging on traditional punctuation, grammar, and spelling rules. Truss makes a good case for not abandoning traditional punctuation conventions, while still being open to changes caused by technology and social norms.
As an English teacher, I would have liked to have seen a little more coverage of basic grammatical concepts to help readers understand the "why" of punctuation. However, by keeping her focus on punctuation, Truss makes the book a quick, entertaining and insightful read.
As a little bonus, because the author is British, the book also makes the reader aware of the differences between British and American punctuation conventions. U.S. readers, in particular, may be surprised to know that the conventions they learned in school regarding whether to put the puncutation inside or outside of quotation marks are different in British English. There are many other subtle differences as well, which are great for anyone to know in this global economy.
So overall, take the time to read this book. You may not agree with every bit of it, but it will make you think, and you'll definitely learn something!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very, very good. You will not be disappointed.
One of my favourite books of all time; it is so informative, hilarious, and well-written that I have now read it twice. Read more
Published 4 months ago by K
4.0 out of 5 stars !
A fun read and an excellent review of grammar. I'm not a stickler, but now have new material for my punctuo-missionary work! Read more
Published 4 months ago by Dominic
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant and funny!
Published 4 months ago by Maureen Thorpe
5.0 out of 5 stars A great reference book.
I refer to this book all the time.
Published 6 months ago by Catherine Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Clever, witty and accessable.
Published 7 months ago by Nina O.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A comma is enticing. A semi-colon is seductive. A colon....well....promises so much more!
Published 8 months ago by Mary Hemmings
5.0 out of 5 stars great read on what would normally be a a boring ...
great read on what would normally be a a boring topic- punctuation. Injected humour, historical info and clear writing (note the omission of the serial comma) help clear up our... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Klang
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Combination of Grammar and Fun
Two reasons may account for this book becoming The Runaway #1 British Bestseller. The first is, “Many people who couldn’t punctuate their way out of a paper bag are still... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Gaboora
4.0 out of 5 stars A very well-written book. Entertaining to read and also ...
A very well-written book.Entertaining to read and also informative. I always had issues with punctuation. The little things that drive one mad. Read more
Published 11 months ago by anthony ramnarine
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A delightful, humourous, entertaining read.
Published 17 months ago by Paul R.
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