Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a call to arms for punctuation sticklers everywhere. Are you secretly a grammatical perfectionist? Have you ever had the urge to smack someone because they said “good” when “well” was needed? Is it not only depressing, but actually physically painful for you to read poorly-punctuated writing?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then Eats, Shoots & Leaves will assure you that you are not alone. No matter how lacking the educational system is; no matter how many people misuse commas and don’t seem to know what a semicolon is, much less how to use it; no matter how many websites don’t require any sort of punctuation (or even capitalization, it seems); you are not alone. There are other people who care about these things. There are other people who are passionate about punctuation.
Lynne Truss started her literary career in editing. Yes, that means that she corrected grammar and punctuation, among other things, for a living. Eventually her career branched out in many directions, including creating a series called Cutting a Dash for BBC Radio 4. This surprisingly popular series about punctuation eventually led to the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
Subtitled The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation!, the book is much more than your standard reference book. It does not just explain to you the rules about how to use punctuation marks, it makes you care about them. As you find out their history and proper usage, you become affectionate towards these funny little symbols.
The humble comma, for example, may not seem very extraordinary. Imagine our language, though, without it. Reading would be tedious and confusing without them to structure our sentences! If you have any doubts about the proper usage of punctuation marks, the rules are concisely and clearly explained.
Let’s face it: even for the biggest sticklers, this could have been a very boring book. Somehow, though, Lynne Truss has turned a text about punctuation into an entertaining narrative. Her writing style is very engaging, and her enthusiasm permeates the book. She includes personal anecdotes and opinions that involve us into the dialogue about punctuation. We are drawn in.
My fervent wish is that this book will be added to the National Curriculum. If schoolchildren were given this book, they would actually read their textbook and perhaps (gasp!) learn something. They would both enjoy the book, and learn to write properly. For the grown-up’s reading this, it’s not too late either. It’s never too late to improve our use of punctuation!