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Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tollerance Approach to Punctuation [Hardcover]

Lynne Truss
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (237 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 12 2004
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.

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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.

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

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it. June 2 2004
By Jenny
I loved this book. Grammar is hardly something the normal person would think to be interesting, especially in book form. This is truely one of a kind. Lynne Truss has such a great way with witty and intelligent humor. I would recommend it to anyone! Besides, I've just about had it with seeing grammar mistakes all over the place.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stickler's Unite! May 7 2004
By prisrob
Lynne Truss has written a marvelously entertaining book in "Eats, Shoots & Leaves-The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation." She tells us that punctuation marks are the traffic
signals of language.
Lynne Truss believes that she was born with a seventh-sense. She is a "stickler" for proper punctuation. Most of us are happily equipped to live in a world of plummeting punctutation standards. We would be the ones to whisper to ourselves, "Oh, get a life!" Lynne Truss believes it is her right, and,indeed, her duty to inform one when their punctution is not correct. She cannot live in a world of constant shock. She lives a tough life, and at times cannot bear to get up in the mornings. Everywhere there are signs of indifference and ignorance. At every point Lynne Truss gives us examples of her everyday shock, and how she tries to right it.
Lynne Truss started out as a literary editor. She is the author of three novels and many radio comedy dramas. She spent six years as the television critic of the "The Times" (London) followed by four years as the sports columnist. She now reviews books for "The Sunday Times" (London), and is heard regularly on
BBC radio 4.
Lynne Truss relates how she came to title her book.
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 toward 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 relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.
"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China.
Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Punctuation with Humour Feb. 6 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Too many of us have forgotten how to use punctuation correctly and may not appreciate how it impacts on meaning.
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I remember a long time ago seeing a headline in a paper that read "Milk Drinkers Turning to Powder." This is the kind of English that really sets off Lynne Truss. I saw an interview with her on television, and while she had a sense of humor, and that is apparent from the book, she also had a very serious side, and I was sure that for certain grammatical errors she would not hesitate to shoot and leave!
The title of this book comes from the kind of problem that people can encounter in the difference between spoken language and written language. Being a fan of poetry, I am very aware of the difference between spoken words and written words on the page, and what a difference simple intonations and voice changes can make. Punctuation and spelling can make a big difference, too. Is it here, or hear? Here here! or Hear! Hear! There are lots of arguments for the need for correct grammar and punctuation, and there are lots of pieces in here that talk about the history and misuse in the past of punctuation in key times.
This is a very British book in many senses, and some of the American rules of grammar are different, but it is still fun to read and see what happens with the differences. Truss has a dry wit and this comes through most of the time fairly well. There were times I did laugh quite a bit, and times I copied things down to email to friends.
This is a fun book. You won't want to leave it behind, eating or shooting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read it first in London June 20 2004
I read the British version of this book first, and I have to say, it's funnier in its "original language." I never thought a book on punctuation would be funny, but after reading an excerpt in a British newspaper, I made a special trip out to buy it. I was laughing out loud the whole way home while reading it on the plane.
I suppose the book is not funny if you don't think there's anything wrong with misplaced punctuation, but if you do, this book is a treat!
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By Eric B
As a book publisher, it is wonderful to see a book on punctuation at the top of Amazon'a list. Must be more writers out there than we thought.
Eric Bollinger
McKenna Publishing Group
Publisher of Jim Woods' "Two Dozen Lessons From an Editor"
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4.0 out of 5 stars Let's hear it for grammar snobs! May 26 2004
As one who was taught grammar the old-fashioned way by diagramming sentences in the fifth grade, I cringe every time I see such gems as "Every dog has it's day", signs advertising "apple's" and "orange's", the interminable misuse of their, there and they're, people acting like they never heard of past participles (a sign in a community center near my office exhorts the kids to "Stay strong, stay focus"), and the confusion of words that sound alike but mean totally different things, such as residents and residence. Do residence live in the residents? Believe it or not, I've actually seen this written.
One wonders if they actually teach grammar in the schools any more. Given some of the notes I've read written by teachers to parents, it's doubtful. I've seen teachers whose own grammar skills were so poor they wouldn't recognize the most flagrant grammatical errors if they were written in letters four inches high. So Lynne Truss's book is long overdue for the hordes (not hoards) of the grammar-impaired. (Yes, simply moving or omitting a comma can totally change the meaning of a sentence. Try these three: "Eats, shoots and leaves"; "Eats shoots and leaves", and "Eats shoots, and leaves".)
The book is short, concise and very much to the point. Unfortunately, it will probably be read and enjoyed only by those who already get the joke in the title.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Reminder
Great read with very funny examples of common english grammatical errors. Which makes me loathe to write too much since I am sure to make at least one myself....... Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2012 by C. Obonsawin
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliery
The book is excellent.

The delivery was too long. I ordered it on the 17th of December and it didn't arrive until well after Christmas via Europe !!!
Published on Jan. 6 2011 by Barbara Nethercot
5.0 out of 5 stars Sieze the Power of Punctuation
Lynne Truss' guide to punctuation EATS, SHOOTS and LEAVES is easy to read, complete without being overly didactic, and often hilarious. A true delight! Read more
Published on Dec 3 2010 by Cybergirl
5.0 out of 5 stars Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach To Punctuation
Are you looking for Laws of Punctuation in sentences that make sense? This book is easy to understand and humorous, giving it an interesting and entertaining read.
Published on July 8 2010 by Lee Shilo
2.0 out of 5 stars anyone else a bit concerned
Now is it me? Or should a book which has a "zero tolerance approach to punctuation" - also have a zero tolerance for bad spelling?

Because "Tolerance" only has one L!
Published on June 8 2009 by Ingrid F Witisen
A great piece of humour here and, yet, with a serious aim, this little book has become a runaway bestseller overnight and rightly, too. Read more
Published on May 24 2009 by Phillip Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars I am not a pickled herring salesman!
Lynn Truss, a proud-self proclaimed snobbish pedant, makes no bones about the fact that her short book, "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" is really an extended essay on pedantry - a style... Read more
Published on Jan. 17 2009 by Paul Weiss
1.0 out of 5 stars Glad to get it over with
I was told to read this book by someone at work. I am blind so I managed to find an audio book on the CNIB library's web site and downloaded a copy. Read more
Published on July 26 2008 by Cheryl Traub
5.0 out of 5 stars Most of these reviewers NEED this book!
There's no need to look further than the reviews written here for this very book to find proof of how desperately it is needed. Read more
Published on March 8 2008 by Dreamer
5.0 out of 5 stars Lynne Truss Has Got A Little List
As someday it may happen that a victim must be found,
She's got a little list -- she's got a little list
Of illiterate offenders who might well be underground,
And... Read more
Published on Jan. 1 2008 by Linda Bulger
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