Join Lynne Truss on a hilarious tour through the rules of punctuation that is. When Eats, Shoots & Leaves came out, and people wanted to know the story. Eats, Shoots & Leaves has ratings and reviews. I have, for some reason, frequently been recommended Lynne Truss’s book, though the reason. The spirited and scholarly #1 New York Times bestseller combines boisterous history with grammar how-to’s to show how important punctuation is in.

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I meet Lynne Truss at the offices of her small publishing company, Profile Books, where everyone seems in a happy spin about the success of her book on that not-obviously-bestselling topic: The reviewers love it; plenty of people are going to get it for Christmas. Why should a book about how to use commas and colons properly have lodged itself at No1 in the Amazon bestseller list?

Truss herself seems truly mystified. It is all quite extraordinary.

Death to the otiose comma

I just didn’t want to say ‘pedant’. She writes for lunne who winced at the posters advertising the film Two Weeks Notice and who felt real pain when they saw in print the name of the pop group Hear’Say. Its absurd apostrophe, “hanging there in eternal meaninglessness”, was, Truss says, “a significant milestone on the road to punctuation anarchy”.

Her often droll account of why accurate punctuation matters has generated publicity for which a career as a columnist, sports journalist and comic novelist has not prepared her. She was on Richard and Judy Richard told her that he and Judy were first drawn to each other in part “because they both cared about apostrophes”.

With Gabby and Terry on Channel 5 she was asked to produce an impromptu punctuation test for fellow guests.

Answer at the end of this article. Maybe her eate success shows that it is not just a few reactionaries who care. Those copies stacked in Waterstone’s might show that there are plenty of people who want to be, as she puts it, “virtuous”. While Truss says that “despair gave this book its impetus”, she does not sound despairing either in print or in person.


The title itself is a joke, about an irate panda who walks into a cafe, orders a sandwich, eats it, draws a gun and fires suoots shots into the air. The waiter finds the explanation for this erratic behaviour in a badly punctuated wildlife manual which the bear leaves behind: Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.

Up the colon

The book tells you the rules, but is also full of jokes and anecdotes. You can’t help cheering it on, because it has done such a good job in its humble way. She has listened to “the man from the Apostrophe Protection Society” yes, it exists but does not sound like a member of any such group. Nor does she feel that she belongs to some better generation.

She cannot remember being taught punctuation at her grammar school in the late 60s and early 70s. That was the time when it ceased to matter. She thinks things might be improving, partly because of the national curriculum: The old red pen on the homework – “that’s the way it’s learned”. She loves the old schoolbooks about usage and abusage by the likes of Fowler and Partridge, “even if everything they say has gone by the board now”.

Indeed, her own buoyant and sometimes facetious style knowingly breaks plenty of the old rules. When she mentioned in the Daily Telegraph that she was to write a book on punctuation, a reader wrote to tell her that her own “howlers” sentences beginning with “And” or containing no finite verb disqualified her from the enterprise.

But then her book has been successful because she does not fit the stereotype of a stern monitor of our language. She learned most of her lessons about English usage from working in journalism.

She was told that she got her first such job on the Listener because her main rival had confused “furbish” with “furnish” in his letter of application. She is tactfully kind about the grammatical standards of those working on newspapers, and fondly recalls the style guide with which she first had to work on the Times.


Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss | : Books

It is the electronic revolution that we should worry about. But this is a very good moment to look at it and lesves what state it’s in. Punctuation helps give rhythm and a tone of voice to writing, and she thinks it no accident that readers of emails often find it difficult to pick lynbe “the tone sjoots the person who’s written it”, with all those dashes.

The habits of emailers might do no harm to the literate, but they help “cover up” the ignorance of those who are “semi-literate”. You see old conventions “going” and you have to accept it, she concedes – though when she talks about the punctuation mark that she believes is headed for extinction – the hyphen – she immediately thinks of all its indispensable uses.

Would she like to write more books about language and its proprieties? Yes, but without becoming “a grumpy old curmudgeon”. She notices that when she has written about punctuation she gets correspondence that soon veers into passionate complaint about spelling, ldaves or pronunciation. Everyone has something that bugs him or her. So battles can be won.

Can we fight for punctuation? The princess’s dress isn’t looking its best; let’s phone Harrods and ask for the ladies’ department.

Published in hardback by Profile Books. The princess dress isnt looking its best lets phone Harrods and ask for the ladies department “Quite tough,” she says. Topics Reference and languages books.