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Eats shoots and leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation [Hardcover]

Lynne Truss
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (285 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Nov 2003
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".

Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; First Edition edition (6 Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861976127
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861976123
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (285 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Lynne Truss deserves to be piled high with honours'. -- John Humphrys, Sunday Times

'Lynne Truss has written a funny and apposite book'. -- Mary Kenny, Irish Independent

'She's a soul sister. She's one of us.' -- Richard Madeley, Richard & Judy

A wonderful little treatise on the uses and misuses of punctuation. Witty and entertaining as well as informative. -- Terry Eagleton, Irish Times, November 22

Altogether makes you love punctuation; you want to conserve what is left and perhaps even call for more. -- Oliver Pritchett, Sunday Telegraph

Everyone knows the basics of punctuation, surely? Aren't we all taught at school how to use full stops, commas and question marks? And yet we see ignorance and indifference everywhere. "Its Summer!" says a sign that cries out for an apostrophe. "ANTIQUE,S," says another, bizarrely. "Pansy's ready", we learn to our considerable interest ("Is she?"), as we browse among the bedding plants.

In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss dares to say that, with our system of punctuation patently endangered, it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them for the wonderful and necessary things they are. If there are only pedants left who care, then so be it. "Sticklers unite" is her rallying cry. "You have nothing to lose but your sense of proportion--and arguably you didn't have much of that to begin with."

This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset about it. From the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to Sir Roger Casement "hanged on a comma"; from George Orwell shunning the semicolon to Peter Cook saying Nevile Shute's three dots made him feel all funny", this book makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with. -- Book Description

Her faint scoldiness, good humour, self-deprecatory pedantry and bloody-minded doggedness make this the most enjoyable book about punctuation ever written. -- Melanie McGrath, Evening Standard

Lovers of good English have thought of ourselves as isolated outposts...Lynne Truss has emerged as our champion. -- William Hartston, Daily Express, November 22

The book of the year, really. It meets the Zeitgeist. Very quirky and enormous fun. -- Fay Weldon,

This is more than a witty, elegant and passionate book that should be on every writer's shelf. Well. Done. Lynne!!!! -- Nigel Williams, The Observer Review

Truss is one of life's head girls. She's also jolly good fun, or at least her book is. -- Sarah Vine, the Times

From the Publisher

This international bestseller, with over 2 million copies sold worldwide, is fast becoming a modern classic. With humor, it guides us and encourages us to use punctuation in a way that will bring life and character to the written word. A book that can be read as a tale from beginning to end and used as a reference guide in moments of confusion. Be prepared to laugh out loud.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Entertaining 8 Aug 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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60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book for the pedant in your life! 4 July 2007
I highly recommend this book IF you have an interest in the english language, its punctuation, the development and abuse of said. This book is accessible, very funny, and well written. Lynne obviously cares about her subject and actually had a long-running national newspaper column on punctuation and its abuse.
If you are regularly infuriated by the greengrocer's apostrophe (carrot's, apple's, etc.) or wonder who invented the question mark (these things don't just turn up out of the blue, you know) then this is the book for you.
Buy it. Read it. Read it again. Bore everyone you know to tears with it. I did!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A panda enters a restaurant, orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. The reason: according to the wildlife manual that he carries he is supposed to behave this way: a panda "eats, shoots and leaves". How one comma too many can change the life of a peaceful animal like a panda... This hilarious "zero-tolerance guide to punctuation" not only explores why people have problems with punctuation, but also explains in a thought-provoking way how punctuation should be used and what the role(s) of the different punctuation signs sare in helping people to understand the text before them. And not only such well-known signs as the apostrophe (a sign on an American restaurant stating "nigger's out" is NOT the same as "niggers out"), the period and the comma are discussed; the semicolon, the hyphen and the ellipsis are explained as well, with examples that make you snigger and read on. And I have probably made a zillion mistakes in the punctuation of the previous few sentences, but I still have the feeling that the book helped me (as a non-native speaker) to better how and when to use punctuation when writing English.
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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative and mildly entertaining 4 April 2005
Punctuation is rather like taxation law - it's a dry old subject but if you don't understand it you can't use it to your advantage. Having left a rather unimpressive comprehensive school at the age of 15, I relished the chance of receiving some, albeit late, tuition in punctuation. And I got it, courtesy of Lynne Truss. OK, professional journalists, English scholars and the like may scoff. They take such skills for granted whilst forgetting that some of us are educationally disadvantaged in this respect.
Although entirely comfortable with apostrophes, I was never really sure on which occasions to use a colon or a semi-colon. I liberally use dashes in my texts as alternatives to commas - but was uncertain whether this was permissible. I now know that it is. Furthermore, I am finally able to appreciate the importance of hyphenation to avoid ambiguity. Thanks, Lynne!
The book was also mildly entertaining but I can't honestly say that I was unable to put it down - especially if there was something more enthralling on the telly. Glad I read it, though.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Open brackets... 15 Mar 2005
By sammoo
I loved this book. It is short, and light reading, and very true. There are so many grammatical errors around us, and Truss has made a point to let us know. When I first started to read it, she did seem a little obsessed with it all, and appeared to take it too far, however, this made it all the more interesting to read.
For a little while after I had finished the book, I found myself thinking things like "Should this comma be here? Or should I put it after the speech marks? Maybe there shouldn't be a hyphen, but a colon instead..." I think people will learn from this book, as it is true what she says that as children, we aren't taught to focus as much on ensuring our punctuation is accurate maybe as much as we should.
Go and have a read - and a chuckle, as it is written with humour, and see what you think for yourself...
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399 of 434 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, intelligent and fun 24 Nov 2003
This book is a must read for anyone who feels alone in their own love and obsession with the English language. In a consistently tongue-in-cheek style Lynne Truss has managed to explain the straightforward and oft-abused rules of correct English punctuation in a manner that made me laugh out loud.
It could be very difficult to write a book such as this, which points out people's widespread ignorance of correct punctuation, without sounding insulting or patronising, but the author manages this perfectly by always maintaining the appropriate level of self-deprecation. Yes it IS obsessive, it IS unfashionable, and it IS a little geeky, but her near-obsession with an exacting standard of English punctuation is refreshing, educational and, with her sense of timing and delivery, absolutely hilarious.
"Eats, Shoots and Leaves" is the perfect book for anyone who takes their English, but not themselves, seriously.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars On an on and on and...
This book could have its length halved and still get the message across. Too much waffling. Some good humourous examples of bad apostrophe use, but, as I say, far too long.
Published 23 days ago by Herman Muttongleuber
2.0 out of 5 stars Just not for me
I am sure many would like it but it just was not for me. I was looking for something to help me with my grammar and punctuation, after reading all the great reviews i bought it and... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Kamil Szczepaniak
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, informative and amusing
For nerds everywhere, how did I write a letter without reading this excellent book? Brilliant of Ms. Read more
Published 26 days ago by Jade
5.0 out of 5 stars Eats, Shoots and Leaves
I found this book enlightening as well as entertaining, a rare combination. Just wish more authors would follow this example.
Published 2 months ago by Claudia Sherlock
3.0 out of 5 stars Have not used
I m unable to comment as I have never used it. The reason for purchase was no longer neccessary when it arrived. I have been told by others it is a good book.
Published 2 months ago by Flavie
4.0 out of 5 stars fun and witty book
fun and witty book to point out the do's and do not's of english writting. worth a read to get a better understanding of grammar.
Published 3 months ago by Craig James Bunn
2.0 out of 5 stars ..
Never actually got all the way through it. The concept is good (such as the excellent title) but a few chapters into it you realise the author has covered all what they want to say... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Fiona
5.0 out of 5 stars Great! A lot more easier to understand than what I expected,
This is a marvellously well written book. The language is clear and straightforward and the recipes very easy to follow. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Hamish McPenguin
5.0 out of 5 stars Engish, is not that it? It is!
This is a must for all who desire to communicated accurately, concisely and enjoy our English language, as it should be!
Published 4 months ago by A. Wilcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!
I wish I'd read this book years ago. I found it laugh outloud funny in places; sorry to the folk who were shareing the quiet coach!
Published 4 months ago by Mike Hudgell
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