Jason's Reviews > Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
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Jul 26, 08

Read in January, 2005

I'm a snob. In the comfortable safety of my desk chair, I'm audibly mocking you if you dare use "your" for "you're" (my biggest punctuation pet peeve) or if your emails are peppered with unnecessary exclamation points and an overabundance of emoticons. I like the smiley in IM conversations; I hate it in email. It's just a thing. When I meet a pretty young thing that I might want to break bread with on occasion, I'm filled with anxiety over that first email: will she write in complete sentences with capital letters and periods and paragraphs, or will I be left reading a ton of LOLs and dashes and ellipses? The bad email is going to seriously hamper this relationship.

It's with that kind of word nerd superiority complex that I went into Lynne Truss' short book on punctuation. I'm not a stickler, mind, but I do know when things aren't written properly and there are certain crimes against grammar that I just can't abide. Even though I'm sometimes a lazy writer here, I know the problems. I've been known to throw an extra comma where it doesn't belong, and when I'm furiously typing, the "there", "their" and "they're" usage can get hairy. In the last week alone, I've edited recent posts over and over again -- correcting tense and errant apostrophes. Eats, Shoots & Leaves has only succeeded in ramping up my snobbery and intensity.

I politely chided a friend in the comments of a post because she had made a grammar error and she didn't even catch it. That riled me up even more. It's driving me crazy that some old entries in here imported funny and now there are question marks masquerading as apostrophes and single quotes (not to mention the number of dead links, but that's more web nerd than parts of speech geekery isn't it?). Even now, I'm obsessing over whether I'm using punctuation correctly in this piece. I've got two hyphens impersonating a dash and I've got colons and semi-colons up there that I'm pretty sure I'm using the right way but can anyone ever be completely sure? Sigh.

But, yes, I'm a snob. My blogroll is filled with bloggers who are actually writers or aspire to be. If you're going to use words, I want you to have a way with them. I love that most of you understand the importance of setting off proper titles of books and films (whether it be in quotes, italics, or the web person's favorite: the bold) and that you probably are wondering whether or not the period or question mark goes inside or outside the direct quote marks. Ms. Truss makes me feel a little stuffy about caring about such things but there is definitely a comfort in knowing I'm not alone. I appreciated most the history of punctuation she peppered throughout the book along with her very dry British humor and the delight with which she plays with her own writing, saving the colon and semi-colon until she is actually talking about them; keeping the hyphen and dash under-wraps and then exploding with them at the perfect time.

If you're a word nerd, you must read Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
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message 1: by Beth (last edited Dec 18, 2010 11:22PM) (new)

Beth I agree with you completely. I too am a grammar snob and have been known to dread the text message of the opposite sex in which they prove the money spent on their education could have gone to something more worthwhile. Once, I honestly pondered the thought of not seeing someone anymore because I got a message that read, "What are you up to?" I answered, "Mentally correcting your grammar." He thought it was funny, thank God, but the relevancy of how tragic our speech has become is astounding. Words and grammar are mostly underrated in this country and a book like this is the perfect remedy to the illness. That is if the lesson is learned. Thank you for your review. I will be sure to pick this up in time for my after Christmas vacation.


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