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.
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!
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.
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.
on 21 November 2003
There are so many words to describe this book: hilarious, learned, helpful, entertaining, punctilious, warm-hearted, open-minded and, dare I write such a faux pas, "unputdownable".
As soon as I read this book I bought a copy for a friend. That friend has just phoned me from a bus to quote the book back to me, such was her enjoyment. It's that kind of book. At this moment in time she is probably clearing the top deck of a number 38 because she's laughing like a child; she may even have taken a step closer to the asylum and is reading out loud to her fellow travellers.
I should explain, for anyone who may think that this book is a work of self-congratulation for over-educated, girly-armed literary types, that underpinning this desperately funny book is Lynne Truss's frank admission that she is a puntuation pedant, a stickler who has lost all sense of proportion. When she describes her irritation at badly puntuated market traders' signs, the object is that we laugh at her comically misplaced irrascibility, not to assume for one moment that someone capable of writing such an expansive, humorous and helpful book is also bent on shaming vast swathes of the nation's readers who, through no fault of their own, do not know everything there is to know about punctuation.
However, there is a warning that go with this book. You read it, you laugh out loud, then you buy a copy for a friend. Thereafter, everyone who reads this book will begin spending an absurdly long time punctuating their emails, text messages and shopping lists. Read this book. As Truss says, all you have to lose is your sense of proportion.
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.
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.
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!
on 20 January 2004
Most of the negative criticism of this book appears to come from the very "sticklers" that the author claims to address. It is a pity, however, that such sticklers don't share the author's (fairly over-the-top) sense of humour. (They could also use a few lessons in grammar and punctuation, as most of the "errors" they claim to have identified in this book are simply accepted variations in usage.)
This is NOT a reference book. From the introduction, it is clear it was not designed as such. It cannot replace any of the standard, much loved reference volumes (Strunk, Fowler, etc.). It simply and amusingly makes a few choice comments about the misuse of English punctuation (and, yes, there are a few digressions into grammar and vocabulary abuse, too).
It's full of great examples for teachers, writers, editors, etc. In my job, I'll certainly be using many of the author's points to illustrate punctuation rules. Highly recommended for pedants (provided they have a sense of humour) everywhere.
on 24 December 2003
I'm only half way through this book and I'm so relieved. I thought I was the only one who got upset at misplaced punctuation but it seems I'm not alone. This is a wonderful read although I'm surprised to learn how popular it is since I expected to be part of a small minority of pedants. If you worry about whether to write it's, its' or its then this is the book for you. Not only will it tell you which one to use but it will give you the confidence to stop and worry about these things. Read it and be entertained.