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on 8 August 2004
"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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on 13 November 2008
I have for many years been what the author calls a "stickler", i.e. someone who exercises total pedantry where punctuation is concerned. Her book has, therefore, given me the utmost pleasure: whilst reading it I nodded and smiled my agreement at just about every paragraph. In addition, Ms Truss's humour made me laugh out loud on occasion (much to my embarrassment and to the consternation of people around me who observed that I was merely reading about what they saw as boring old punctuation). This book must surely amuse and delight all those "sticklers" who flinch (or worse) when they encounter errors of punctuation (sadly, not just by greengrocers) and should be compulsory reading for all office workers (including the bosses, who dictate commas to their poor, beleaguered secretaries, intending them to go in totally inappropriate places and who have no idea what a semicolon is for). Good on yer, Lynne, and more power to your apostrophe (not to mention your sadly misunderstood semicolon)!

Interestingly, this book gave me reasons for the punctuation I have used (possibly inappropriately at times), as a matter of course over the years without really knowing why, and has corrected me in areas where I was unsure and may have been at fault. It's a book to keep by one's side as a guide for times when in doubt - and who isn't in doubt from time to time? I'm sure someone will answer me on this review to point out where I've failed to punctuate it correctly!!!

I bought "Talk to the Hand" for my husband, who is a "manners stickler", last Christmas and he also sat nodding and smiling (and even quietly commenting, "Oh my goodness, yes!") whilst reading it (or even more colourfully now and again!). I therefore think Ms Truss must have a real talent for getting people to nod and smile (and be even more colourful!!!). Good for her! I urge you to read both books, to learn and enjoy the (very painless) lessons!
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I borrowed this from the library; what a delight! I did not expect to enjoy it (got it through curiosity more than anything) but it was superb. Very entertaining, especially for anyone who just despises the huge ignorance constantly displayed in everyday signs, emails and official letters.

It also taught me the name of those 3 little dots... (ellipsis in case you cared), and a great deal of other useful punctuation information that I'd forgotten or never knew (ways to use a semicolon; apostrophe clangers...). Definitely a book for sticklers. Those who are too ignorant to care about punctuation will not enjoy the book. Those that make the effort to write well for the benefit of the reader will worship at the feet of Lynne for her clear, informative and very funny book!
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on 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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on 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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on 7 August 2007
Subtitled "The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation", this isn't a grammatical how-to book, it's about the correct use of punctuation. It starts by looking at the different meanings you can give to the same passage of text without changing the words, just the placement of the punctuation. For example compare the two passages:

Dear Jack,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy - will you let me be yours?


Dear Jack,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You gave ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

It then spends a bit of time talking about the main punctuation marks including the full stop, comma, apostrophe, exclaimation mark, question mark, colon and semicolon. She gives you the correct use of each and then a little time is spent on some examples showing how correct use changes the meaning of a sentence.

It was quite funny in places, but it didn't really tell me much that I didn't know already (except perhaps about the semicolon which I have never used). I think the main problem with this book is that people who already use punctuation are the type of people who will be interested in reading this book. Those who are unsure or don't really bother with it will see it as boring and pedantic and therefore not read it. This mostly defeats it's purpose!
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VINE VOICEon 10 February 2004
This little book (204 small pages of large type) is fun to read. The author has an amusing and engaging style that makes it a pleasure to read. You get the feeling that she pretends to be a "punctuation fascist" but actually appreciates the futility of being over-fussy about presentation.
Don't buy this book is you want to learn how to punctuate correctly. Although the book covers the most common errors in punctuation, it's too short to cover any of them in much depth so I'm not sure if you would learn a great deal from reading this book. There are much better books on punctuation if you're serious about mastering it. In fact, I suspect that the book is best for someone who already has a good grasp of (and interest in) punctuation and simply wants to learn a little more about it. I found particularly interesting the historical background to punctuation marks that is scattered across the chapters.
So if you have already mastered punctuation, have an interest in this subject, and you want a light, amusing read then this little book comes highly recommended.
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on 24 November 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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I have huge admiration for Lynne Truss and for what she has accomplished with this book. She has provoked a debate about the written English language which will serve it well, and has stimulated many thousands of people to actually care about what they are writing and how they are writing it.

I expected to love the book, but was surprised by how difficult it was to enjoy.

The problem is not in the meat of the book, the middle section, which is all about the history, evolution and use of popular punctuation. That's the best bit of it and is thoroughly informative and good reading.

The opening chapters are the major issue; Lynne hectors and rants and has a good old moan about how awful everything is. Frankly, it's hard going even if you are a perfect punctuator. For someone who has learned a little grammar the hard way, by picking it up as I go along and by figuring out the rules from well-written examples, I found it all rather oppressive. 15 years ago I was one of those people who didn't know where on earth to put an apostrophe, and it was hard not to feel vaguely insulted and rather embarrassed by the opening section's torrent of scorn and outrage.

If you persevere then you'll be rewarded by the middle sections which are much more fun, more fact-based, and as a result are more educational.

The end, again, slithers back into a rant against modern communication and a gloomy, miserable outlook that we're all doomed, laddy, to use emoticons and thus forsake the elegance of language itself.

Lynne says that this is not a textbook, nor a grammatical guide, and she recommends several other books for people who really want to know more about the hard rules (and soft rules) of written English.

"Eats, Shoots and Leaves..." is not such a book.

It's an entertainment.

It's probably most rewarding for those folk who enjoyed a "proper" education and who can smugly agree with every word Lynne says (probably without having to put those rules into practise very often).

For anyone who has experienced an education in the UK's comprehensive system in the last 25 years, this isn't a particularly helpful or inspiring volume. Try something like the Sunday Times "Wordpower" guide instead; which is full of concise information and which isn't full of judgmental comment.

Must try harder?
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on 21 December 2003
Greengrocer's apostrophes or greengrocers' apostrophes? If you can be bothered by the difference and, more to the point in this age of deteriorating standards, know that there is a difference, then this must be on your wish list! Better still, buy it today.
Truss writes with knowledge and humour, but she has a serious point to make - that quality of expression matters, and that standards of written expression are alarmingly low. Truss is a first class teacher, and she carefully explains both the history and 'rules' of punctuation.
As an English teacher, I don't agree with her every point, but I warmly welcome her message. Since buying this book just two weeks ago, I have already started using the anecdotes in class and plugging this book at every opportunity.
Buy it, read it and spread its message.
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