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Eats, Shoots and Leaves [Paperback]

Lynne Truss
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (249 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
By Klang
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 misuse of these small but vital inclusions to writings.
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Combination of Grammar and Fun April 11 2015
By Gaboora
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 interested in the way punctuation can alter the sense of a string of words” (p. 8.) The second is, ‘bone-dry humour’ (xv.) Even the Foreword to Eats, Shoots & Leaves is funny. The strange title is just part of this bone-dry hilarity with which the story and the importance of correct punctuation are told.

The main error that Lynne Truss aims to expose in her winsome workbook is the ubiquitous ‘apostrophe catastrophe.’ In fact, she had never wrote this book at all but for her belief that the proper placement of an apostrophe could be understood by the average person (p. 32.) Her comments (in parentheses) on some of the apostrophe gaffes that were submitted to her: Pupil’s entrance (on a very selective school, presumably.) Adult Learner’s Week (lucky him) (p. 50.) Therefore, ‘know’ your ‘onions’ (p. 110.) “Using the apostrophe correctly…tells the world you are not a thicko” (p. 105.)

Besides her ability to crack us up, Lynn Truss is interestingly informative: “The word ‘punctilious’…comes from the same original root word as punctuation” (p. 7.) She uncovers historical origins: “The initial letter of a sentence was first capitalized in the 13th century, but the rule was not consistently applied until the 16th” (p. 22.) Sometimes she just allows history to speak for itself: “In 1582, Richard Mulcaster’s The First Part of the Elementarie…described the comma as ‘a small crooked point, which in writing followeth some branch of the sentence, & in reading warneth vs to rest there, & to help our breth a little’” (p. 71.
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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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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very well-written book.Entertaining to read and also informative. I always had issues with punctuation. The little things that drive one mad. This book helped to dispel some of those issues and made me aware of others.
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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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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but a bit irritating at times
This was a rather entertaining book with amusing examples. I was going to give it four stars, but the final chapter just irritated me that I had to drop it down to three stars. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Serry Perennia
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Funny and educational. A must read for all those who appreciate the editorial power of the comma.
Published 5 months ago by happy grandma
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 9 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 9 months ago by Dominic
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant and funny!
Published 10 months ago by Maureen Thorpe
5.0 out of 5 stars A great reference book.
I refer to this book all the time.
Published 11 months ago by Catherine Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Clever, witty and accessable.
Published 12 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 13 months ago by Mary Hemmings
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A delightful, humourous, entertaining read.
Published 23 months ago by Paul R.
5.0 out of 5 stars Punctuation with Humour
Too many of us have forgotten how to use punctuation correctly and may not appreciate how it impacts on meaning.
Published on Feb. 6 2014 by Thomas Hasek
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