We all know the basics of punctuation. Or do we? A look at most neighborhood signage tells a different story. Through sloppy usage and low standards on the Internet, in e-mail, and now text messages, we have made proper punctuation an endangered species.
In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Truss dares to say, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled. From the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, this lively history makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with. BACKCOVER: Praise for Lynne Truss and Eats, Shoots & Leaves:
Eats, Shoots & Leaves makes correct usage so cool that you have to admire Ms. Truss.
Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Witty, smart, passionate.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, Best Books Of 2004: Nonfiction
Who knew grammar could be so much fun?
Witty and instructive. . . . Truss is an entertaining, well-read scold in a culture that could use more scolding.
USA Today Truss is William Safire crossed with John Cleese's Basil Fawlty.
Lynne Truss has done the English-speaking world a huge service.
The Christian Science Monitor
This book changed my life in small, perfect ways like learning how to make better coffee or fold an omelet. It's the perfect gift for anyone who cares about grammar and a gentle introduction for those who don't care enough.
The Boston Sunday Globe
Lynne Truss makes [punctuation] a joy to contemplate.
If Lynne Truss were Roman Catholic I'd nominate her for sainthood. Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes
Truss's scholarship is impressive and never dry.
Edmund Morris, The New York Times Book Review
In a funny way it taught me how to use punctuation better than more boring and informative books.
So unimaginable that punctuation can make up such a long book. The author had carried out extensive research on this topic and there were loads of reference in it.
The analogies and jokes on punctuation did bring about a lot of fun,
and yet the vocabularies were a bit too much for me!
Punctuation marks are somewhat useful and essential: they either do with the syntax or notate the music of the spoken language.
"Punctuate the following puzzler: Charles the First walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off"
"The Law of Conservation of Apostrophes: For every apostrophe omitted from an it's, there is an extra one put into an its"
1. indicate a possessive on a singular noun
2. indicate time or quantity
3. indicate the omission of figures in dates
4. indicate the omission of letters
5. indicate strange, non-standard English
6. feature in Irish names such as O'Neil
7. indicate the plural of letters eg. f's
8. indicate plurals of words eg. do's
1. for lists
2. for joining
3. for filling gaps eg Annie had dark hair; Sally, fair
4. before direct speech
5. setting off interjection
6. commas that come in pairs
to add information, to clarify, to explain, to illustrate
1. an editor's way of clarifying the meaning of a direct quote without actually changing any of the words
2. used around the word sic eg "please send a copy of The Time's [sic]", he wrote.
1. indicate words missing
2. trail off in an intriguing manner
1. avoid ambiguities eg re-mark
2. spelling outnumbers
3. linking nouns with nouns
4. noun phrase to qualify another noun eg stainless-steel kitchen
5. certain prefixes
6. to spell out words
7. avoid unpleasant linguistic condition eg deice (de-ice)
8. indicate a word is unfinished and continues on the next line
9. hesitation and stammering
After being the only one who noticed apostrophes being put in the wrong places all the time, after asking everyone I could why, after being told there was nothing wrong (with the apostrophes, I mean, since there was probably something wrong with me)... after all of these things, I found this book. Ok, it's actually a book I have to study for an exam, but I've never ever enjoyed a school book as I'm enjoying this.
It's funny, deliciously written and actually useful; and now I finally know there are some people who just can't write in their own language even in the USA and the UK.
I must confess I haven't finished this book yet, and I probably won't go on.
I found it very funny and interesting at the beginning, since it carries some fundamental information about English language (e.g. the use of apostrophe for the plural form of acronyms). I particularly appreciated the description of a few common and not-so-common mistakes - there's an inner stickler inside me who particularly enjoys such things :P
However, the book soon became extremely boring, with so many unhelpful references to history. I wonder, for example, how helpful such long references to Aldus Manutius may be to a reader who simply wants to find out more about English language.
With text messages and emails which are much closer to speech than writing, punctuation may not have a long life ahead of it. Yet, for all those of us who enjoy writing clearly for the sheer pleasure of doing something aesthetically well, this book makes you understand that you are no weirdo; that there are others out there like you; and that you should really resist to the general sloppiness in punctuation.
By the way, I used a semicolon deliberately, to add a pause between the relative clauses....Continua