(My Rating: 4 /5)
I had skimmed through this book when my father bought it for me about 8-10 years ago, but now, inspired by my reading challenge for this year, I thought it deserved a thorough read.
Lynne Truss, an expert in English grammar and punctuation, is a journalist, broadcaster, author and novelist who has written this book in an attempt to educate people about the dreadful punctuation mistakes they commonly make, while blissfully being unwaware of the grammatical atrocities they are committing.
Each chapter is dedicated to a particular punctuation mark, listing out the rules (with examples) for using each. This is interspersed with her lamentations on the woeful situation of punctuation today, the history behind the various punctuation marks and the often hilarious examples of bad grammar and punctuation she has personally come across.
I do consider myself a stickler for punctuation, but am by no means an expert. So this sort of a book is just perfect for someone like me. It will always be a part of my book collection, acting as a reference whenever I am in doubt, as I would most certainly like to learn to punctuate better.
I found the chapters on colons and semi-colons particularly useful, as this is an area that always confuses me. I intend to study this chapter well!
I also enjoyed the last chapter, where, amongst other matters, she makes a very strong case for reading printed material as opposed to reading material via electronic media. I definitely support this opinion of hers.
The only thing I didn’t like about the book was Truss’s tone at some parts. I somehow found it condescending. But I suppose if I were someone as well versed in punctuation as she is, and grammatical abominations seemed to accost me at every turn, my frustration might make me sound condescending as well. So in the end I don’t blame her. I agree with her when she is angry that people just don’t seem to care about punctuation. There is a big difference between not knowing better and just not caring at all.
I think anybody who writes must have (along with a good dictionary and a copy of Wren & Martin) Eats, Shoots & Leaves as part of their reference collection. I know I shan’t be lending my copy to anyone!
Let me leave you with a couple of humourous paragraphs from the book.
“…and readers grow so accustomed to the dwindling incidence of commas in public places that when signs go up saying “No dogs please”, only one person in a thousand bothers to point out that actually , as a statement, “no dogs please” is an indefensible generalisation, since many dogs do please, as a matter of fact; they rather make a point of it.”
“Writers who place whole substantive passages in brackets can’t possibly appreciate the existential suffering they inflict. When a bracket opens halfway down a left-hand page and the closing bracket is, giddyingly, nowhere in sight, it’s like being in a play by Jean-Paul Sartre.”