Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss

Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a book written by Lynn Truss. The title Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation refers to a joke about a panda. 

The Title

The panda had read an entry in an encyclopedia entry on itself which stated: Panda is a large black and white bear like mammal, native to chine. It eats, shoots, and leaves. So the panda does just that—goes into a cafe, orders a sandwich, then pulls out a gun, shoots, and leaves.

The encyclopedia meant to say that panda is a mammal which eats shoots and leaves. All the problem because of an extra comma (after eats) which changed the meaning of an innocent sentence.

The book

What fascinated me was the fact that a book on punctuation was at the top of UK bestseller lists. Also, the title and it’s explanation was equally fascinating. Being a technical writer by profession, I thought this book would be an interesting, informative and educative.  I bought it, read it and found it a little  interesting, a little  informative, and a little educative! Any writer will know that the word punctuation  puts you in an alert mode and you try to be careful!

Lynn Truss’s does not teach the art of punctuation.  She just explains bad punctuation via anecdote, which is the reason why the book became so popular. There are no grammar lessons here, just explanations to why they are wrong.  Apart from comma, she also talks about the misuse of dots, ellipses (…), semicolon, apostrophe, colon, dash, hyphens, and periods (full stop).

In some places you feel that Truss is trying very hard to be funny. She has been successful in some places and not so successful in the others.

An example

I always use an example when I train the trainee writers in my group and I also found this example in this book too:

An English professor wrote the following words on the blackboard and directed the students to punctuate it correctly: Woman without her man is nothing.

Men wrote: Woman, without her man, is nothing.

Women wrote: Woman! Without her, man is nothing.

Punctuation is used in sentences to make the meaning clear and to make reading easier. But as you see in this example, difference in punctuation can convey absolutely different meanings. It has to be used properly, with a lot of thought and delibration.

I have seen people who use dots very liberally. They sprinkle it everywhere. (I wanted to go…………….. but……… then I decided not to ……………..) I mean they no longer remain a dot or an ellipse. It’s an unknown punctuation mark 🙂

On the whole, it is a good read. Rather people who are interested in language might like it. Others may not!


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