Tuesday, August 31, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Eats, Shoots and Leaves. PUNCTILIOUS YET??

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss


Just call me “Ellen the Punctilious” from now on; because of Lynne Truss’ little book, I’m hooked on proper punctuation! Commas, periods (full-stops, in UK), parentheses (brackets, in UK), semi-colons and colons, and everything in between is covered within these 204 pages, nestled between words of wit and wisdom that inform as well as entertain.

One of Truss’ goals is to show us why punctuation is important and what we can do to keep it alive. Is it in danger of watering down and eventually disappearing? You bet your sweet bippy, and Truss carefully explains this to us as we go along, using historical and literary references that go back to the beginning of the written word.

A favorite quote: The reason it’s worth standing up for punctuation is not that it’s an arbitrary system of notation known only to an over-sensitive elite who have attacks of the vapours [sic] when they see it misapplied. The reason to stand up for punctuation is that without it there is no reliable way of communicating meaning. Punctuation herds words together, keeps other apart. [end quote], p.20

How important is the punctuation? Here is a classic example from p.9:

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? Jill


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, Jill

See? Punctuation can be fun!

Caveat: this book was written by a Brit, and although they released the USA edition that I read, it was still chock full of formula that we don’t use in America. Truss is disturbed horribly because we insist on putting our punctuation INSIDE the quotation marks. “Stop that, Lynne,” Ellen said. (See, INSIDE). She’s abhors the way we put periods after shortened proper nouns such as, Mr., Mrs., Dr., and Jr. And she calls the punctuation by their British names enough that if you don’t pay close attention, you might become royally confused half-way in. The only real solution for this problem is for the author to rewrite the entire book just for the Yanks—which I’m fairly certain will never happen.

Still, a solid five stars for a helpful, informative, and sometimes laugh-out-loud-hilarious book.

Ellen C Maze
Author of Curious Spiritual Vampire Tales
RABBIT: CHASING BETH RIDER, Top 100 Horror/Occult on Amazon

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