When was the last time you read a book where you could literally say, “This book has changed my life.” Eat, Shoots and Leaves (2003) by Lynn Truss is one such book.
At first I thought a zero tolerance approach to punctuation sounded a bit extreme. That is until Truss mentioned one of my favorite movies (“Two Weeks Notice”), pointing out that the title should be “Two Weeks‘ Notice”. I was shocked. I had always assumed an apostrophe was there. Then I started listening to The Plain White T’s, a band whose name makes no sense with an apostrophe, and I knew things were getting serious.
Nonetheless I will admit that it was a challenge reading the chapters about the apostrophe and the comma (although I have learned a few new tricks for commas). Then I came to a chapter entitled “Airs and Graces.” From there onward, the book was a revelation.
I learned my punctuation from my mom and copious reading. I still have a hard time explaining dependent clauses and why it is appropriate to use “well” instead of “good” even though I can tell when a sentence is complete/written correctly if I can read it. I am sharing this background so that when I say Truss explains all of the punctuation rules presented in her book clearly you will know I mean really clearly.
Truss has illustrated that there is a time and place for the dash and double-dash in all good literature. She has also shown that, to avoid over-using the dash, a colon can easily replace a dash in certain situations. I never knew that!
What’s nice about Eats, Shoots and Leaves is that it’s not a dry read. Yes, Truss is talking about punctuation. Yes, she is deadly serious about it. But she maintains a sense of humor throughout: including witty examples and poking fun at punctuation (and punctuation sticklers) as much as she explains it. In addition, Truss includes abundant historical information about the punctuation marks she discusses ranging from the first names for parentheses to the first appearance of an apostrophe in printed documents.
I would recommend this book highly to anyone with an interest in writing. Even if you know the basics, Truss has a few tricks up her sleeve that are sure to give your writing a little extra flair.
Sound good? Find it on Amazon: Eats, Shoots & Leaves