Review: Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

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      The above nine punctuations summarize this witty and enjoyable book.
  
   THISSTYLEOFWRITINGWASPREVALENTBEFORETHEMODERNFORMTOOKOVER. It is called Scriptio continua. Does that interest you? Read on.      

     Just around two weeks ago somebody had sent me a joke about a panda that walked into a bar and “ate, shot and left”. And though, I found it later, it had been quite an old joke but it did amuse me. Yesterday I walked into a library and spotted a tiny hardbound (or should it be hard-bound?) yellow book with the title: Eats, Shoots & Leaves. My synapse did register a flurry of activity and I was left with no option but to immediately issue it and read it in two sittings. Though I would love to be a stickler (not ‘stickler’) like Lynne Truss but my own not-so-intentional ignorance of grammatical aptitude and shabbiness towards language solecism have led me down a worm-hole of mistakes.


     This book isn’t your regular Wren & Martin English Grammar book which would go on and on about seventeen rules of comma – yes, that is true! – with drab uncles-and-aunts examples. At the same time it isn’t a replacement for the former either. Lynne starts with how punctuation standards are falling sentence by sentence and making people like her fall over. How many of you knew that Two Weeks Notice is wrong? It’s Two Weeks’ Notice. And do you sometimes wonder whether “its” or “it’s” should be used? If yes then you should read this and if not then you must read this. It’s a journey not only about the origins of the dot, comma, colon, semi-colon, question mark, and the exclamation mark but also about the funnier stories involving Shaw, Bard of Avon and Hemingway and the never ending fights between authors and editors. (Did you notice the comma after ‘question mark’? That’s the Oxford style. And the indented paragraphs of this blog? Ah! Yes – it’s only because of her :-) . She would kill me for that smiley; happily)

(L) Lynne - the stickler - on a mission; (R) The Panda: Eats Shoots & Shoots
 
     She explains the reasons for which each one was invented and how over the centuries the usage has changed and what the future might hold for them (no punctuations she surmises!). Her writing style is humorous and engaging and made me laugh out loud. Believe me on that! Sample the following sentence by her when writing about colons and semicolons: They give such lift! Assuming a sentence rises into the air with the initial capital letter and lands with a soft-ish bump at the full stop, the humble comma can keep the sentence aloft all right, like this, UP, for hours if necessary, UP, like this, UP, sort-of bouncing, and then falling down, and then UP it goes again, assuming have enough additional things to say, although in the end you may run out of ideas and then you have to roll along the ground with no commas at all until some sort of surface resistance takes over and you run out of steam anyway and then eventually with the help of three dots … you stop. Only Paul Johnson apart from her has given such literary pleasures to me in recent times.

     Writers who aspire to write not just correctly but in a style which catches hold of the reader’s attention should grab a copy. In only two-hundred-four pages Lynne has brought out the travesty of today’s communication standards in the wake of mails, text messages and smileys (Microsoft Word is suggesting smiley’s to me here). If Lynne were to read this review she surely would fall over and roll over couple of times for the punctilious blasphemies I must have committed in writing it.



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