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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation » User review

I am not a pickled herring salesman!

  • Jan 23, 2010
  • by
Lynn Truss, a proud, self-proclaimed snobbish pedant, makes no bones about the fact that her short book, "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" is really an extended essay on pedantry - a style book, a prescriptive grammar, a manifesto, a rant and, perhaps saddest of all, a eulogy - bemoaning the demise of the correct use of punctuation in the written English word today.

As a reader, writer and speaker who, frankly, takes pride in an extensive vocabulary and takes pains to use our magnificent language correctly, I found myself nodding vigorously in agreement as Truss eloquently spoke about the purpose of correct punctuation. She helps us to understand that commas, apostrophes, colons and the other denizens of our pantheon of punctuation marks are aids and signs on a road map for communication without misunderstanding. They are an invaluable assistance to reading out loud with the proper interpretation, lilt and intonation that an author intended in the same fashion as a well annotated musical score enables a musician to interpret music as a composer meant it to be played.

"Eats, Shoots and Leaves" also provides us with snippets of the history of punctuation. I wager that few of us were aware that the apostrophe first appeared as early as the 16th century.

If history and a pedantic rant delivered with a school marm attitude, a baleful glare and a wrathful wagging finger were all we got from a reading of "Eats, Shoots and Leaves", I'm sure most of us would have yawned in complete boredom and Lynn Truss's novel would not likely have reached the list of best sellers. But, thankfully, "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" is also liberally sprinkled with a very healthy dose of dry as dust British wit, humour and sarcasm that hit my funny bone with a full-sized mallet. One of my favourites was the story of a community group who had built an enormous playground for the children of their neighbourhood and advertised it with the sign "GIANT KID'S PLAYGROUND". To the amazement of the group that had built the facility, it was hardly ever used. Lynn Truss, with tongue in cheek, suggested it was probably because everyone was terrified of meeting the giant kid.

By the way, the much maligned salesman of this review's title is actually a complete tee-totaller. He is, however, a very exceptional pickled-herring salesman! (If you'll forgive my mixed metaphors, a very different kettle of fish, indeed). This witty little example shows how the poor, lowly, and much misunderstood dash can eliminate any possibility of misunderstanding the sentence.

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss

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More Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zer... reviews
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
Any book that can make grammar fun... wait, I think this is the only book. So cool. Really enjoyed this one.
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
A delight for a pedant old grammarian like myself. Lazy language -- born in America, migrating to every point on the globe -- needs to be eschewed wherever possible. Truss' observations are witty, delightful, and dead accurate. If you like speaking and writing "American," don't read this book. (LOL)
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
An entertaining and educational read!
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Definitely funny for anyone who has studied or struggled with English.
Quick Tip by . June 29, 2010
A wonderful, humorous little book - also extremely useful.
Quick Tip by . June 25, 2010
Fantastic book for those, like myself, with a comma dragon to conquer.
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
Love English, this book cracks me up.
Quick Tip by . June 21, 2010
Learned about this one from Levenger. Laughed like a maniac!
review by . June 20, 2010
I have never mastered punctuation. I have found it mind numbingly dull. With that said, I simply laughed out loud at this cranky little book. Truss even made me aware of what I was laughing at, which menas I learned a little, as well. I feel this book jumps out of the starting gate with a bang and took the lead as a "laugh-out-loud" candidate. I couldn't put it down but by the middle, it began running out of steam and frankly, I got a bit weary with it. I mean, how much more interest …
Quick Tip by . May 19, 2010
Fun & painless learning (and explained the Lands' End logo).
About the reviewer
Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #16
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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Who would have thought a book about punctuation could cause such a sensation? Certainly not its modest if indignant author, who began her surprise hit motivated by "horror" and "despair" at the current state of British usage: ungrammatical signs ("BOB,S PETS"), headlines ("DEAD SONS PHOTOS MAY BE RELEASED") and band names ("Hear'Say") drove journalist and novelist Truss absolutely batty. But this spirited and wittily instructional little volume, which was a U.K. #1 bestseller, is not a grammar book, Truss insists; like a self-help volume, it "gives you permission to love punctuation." Her approach falls between the descriptive and prescriptive schools of grammar study, but is closer, perhaps, to the latter. (A self-professed "stickler," Truss recommends that anyone putting an apostrophe in a possessive "its"-as in "the dog chewed it's bone"-should be struck by lightning and chopped to bits.) Employing a chatty tone that ranges from pleasant rant to gentle lecture to bemused dismay, Truss dissects common errors that grammar mavens have long deplored (often, as she readily points out, in isolation) and makes elegant arguments for increased attention to punctuation correctness: "without it there is no reliable way of communicating meaning." Interspersing her lessons with bits of history (the apostrophe dates from the 16th century; the first semicolon appeared in 1494) and ...
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ISBN-10: 1592400876
ISBN-13: 978-1592400874
Author: Lynne Truss
Publisher: Gotham

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