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*****= An all-time favorite
****Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
by Lynne Truss
Reviewed June 5, 2004.
Gotham Books, New York, 2004. Originally published in Great Britain in 2003. 209 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (428.2 TRU).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #2, Humorous Nonfiction
How is this possible? A book on punctuation is a bestseller? Indeed, how is it even possible to write a book on punctuation that is amusing, entertaining, and absolutely delightful? Before I read this book, I wouldn’t have thought it could be done, but Lynne Truss has pulled it off.
The title comes from the following joke:
A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.
“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
“I’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.”
The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.
“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”
I must confess that I am a stickler. Lynne Truss’s introduction confirmed this sad truth about me. She says, “For any true stickler, you see, the sight of the plural word ‘Book’s’ with an apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages of bereavement, though greatly accelerated. First there is shock. Within seconds, shock gives way to disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger. Finally (and this is where the analogy breaks down), anger gives way to a righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage with the aid of a permanent marker.”
I couldn’t help but recall an incident when I was in high school. I walked out of the girls’ locker room and found the cheerleaders working over a banner that read, “Warriors, your the greatest!” I immediately said, “That’s wrong. ‘You’re’ needs an apostrophe.” To their credit, they cut the banner and painted and inserted the necessary change. However, I realized that if I were a nicer person, I would have let them continue in blissful ignorance. After all, who minds if a cheerleader looks stupid? (Sorry for the pot shot; I couldn’t resist.)
Now, although this book appeals to sticklers, it’s also true that most sticklers will not believe that they need to read a book on punctuation; I know I didn’t. However, I found Lynne Truss’s amusing style completely irresistible. Such magic! She wrote an entertaining book on punctuation. Read the book and see for yourself.
As for the rules, I didn’t think I needed a book on punctuation, but the astute reader will observe that I have now discovered the delights of the semicolon. She speaks the truth; they are dangerously addictive.
My favorite rule in the whole book is this one: Don’t use commas like a stupid person. As the writer promises, it is an easy rule to remember, though it may take the rest of the book to be sure you know how to carry it out.
Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund. All