Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

Book Review: "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" (1 Viewer)

Spudley

Senior Member
Book Review: "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" (Lynne Truss, Profile Books, 2003)

I had been half-hoping that one of my book-loving relatives would have bought me this book for Christmas, when it was first published - it's the sort of book that makes a good present when you're not sure what else to get, and the number of copies in the bookstores (at least the ones near me) in the lead up to Christmas bears out that point. Having the words "Book of the Year 2004" in bold letters on the cover doesn't hurt, either.

Sadly, however, my relatives were obviously fairly sure what I wanted, so I didn't get it. (I did get a few other good books, though, so I'm not complaining). I toyed with waiting till next Christmas, but in the end I couldn't wait, so I went out and bought myself a copy.

Well, with a subtitle like "The Zero Tolerance Approach To Punctuation", I felt I had to at least have a look. (The main title, by the way, is a reference to an old joke about a panda that walks into a bar; The key point being the misinterpretation of the phrase 'eats shoots and leaves', by the addition of a comma).

Lynne Truss writes well, and the book has a wonderfully light-hearted feel to it thoughout, even though it's dealing with a subject that the author obviously feels quite strongly about (In fact, she proudly declares herself to be a punctuation stickler).

At its core, the book is an instruction manual, setting out the rules of use for pretty much all the punctuation symbols in common use today. But in getting to that point (pun intended), she covers a wide range of other ground, from amusingly mis-punctuated signs to the very history of punctuation, and how we arrived at the system we have today. In between, she tells of the perils of ambiguity caused by bad punctuation: the criminal who was famously "hanged on a comma", and the army sent in answer to a desperate-sounding telegram only to find it wasn't needed.

The book has chapters for all the various types of punctuation. Some are longer than others, but all are covered in detail, and with the same entertaining wit. But the chapter that really catches the reader is the first one (after the lengthy introduction): the chapter on apostrophes. I suspect that it was the apostrophe and its mis-use that drove Ms Truss into writing this book in the first place; she gets quite worked up over them, and in fact a fair amount of the introduction talks about them too. Only the comma comes close in the amount she writes about it, but this is understandable, given the number of different tasks the comma deals with (I'd never realised it was so versatile; I've always just used it without thinking about it).

But the one thing that struck me as I read the book was just how much I agreed with it. When she rails against bad comma use, I know I've thought exactly the same thing. The author has struck a chord that will resonate with just about everyone who seriously calls themselves a writer, and hopefully with most readers too. If you've ever seen a sign selling "Book's and Tape's" and inwardly cringed at the sight, you'll love this book. (If, on the other hand, you saw that and didn't see anything wrong with it, you probably ought to be made to read it!)

"Eats, Shoots & Leaves" can be found in most good bookstores.
The publisher can be found online at www.profilebooks.co.uk.
 

eleutheromaniac

Senior Member
I saw this over at Lit and was actually planning on buying it ever since you mentioned it in the religion thread. It's one of many books that I've added to my must-read list since joining these forums. Thanks for recommending it.
 

A_MacLaren

Senior Member
If you like this, there's a book by a man named Donald Watson...I've forgotten what it's called. It's basically the same thing. I'll find the title, and get right back to you.
 

Lupin3

Senior Member
Before everyone gets too excited about this one, have a look over here.

After reading this, one might begin to wonder what exactly the point of this book is...
 

Spudley

Senior Member
Lupin3 said:
Before everyone gets too excited about this one, have a look over here.

After reading this, one might begin to wonder what exactly the point of this book is...

Wow. That is a seriously pretentious-sounding review (does the New Yorker always sound like that, or was she just being punctilious because of the subject matter?). And yes, she has made some good and valid points there, but there were also some points she made that I firmly disagreed with. (And oddly, only the first third of it seems to be actually about the book it's reviewing...? For the rest, she goes off into her own grammar lesson for her readers)


It's good to get an opposing viewpoint though. Interesting stuff; thanks for pointing it out. :)
 

John Bradbury

Senior Member
I just bought the book but haven't had the time to read it yet, from what I hear it's a great read.

My imagination is far stronger than my English usage. However I am taking steps to correct this, I start a University degree in October (part-time), the first module being 'Language, Grammar, and Punctuation for writers'.
 
Top