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Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  107,380 ratings  ·  4,985 reviews
In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Lynne Truss, gravely concerned about our current grammatical state, boldly defends proper punctuation. She proclaims, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. Using examples from literature, history, neigh ...more
Paperback, 209 pages
Published April 2006 by The Penguin Group (first published January 2nd 2003)
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Start your review of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Jun 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Grammar nerds and punctuation sticklers
Bad punctuation can force an innocent animal to live outside the law. Now, instead of peacefully munching, it EATS, SHOOTS, and LEAVES.

I proudly consider myself a punctuation martyr. The setting is an ordinary Soviet elementary school, first grade. I am kicked out of the classroom and sent home with an angry note. My transgression - in my wide-eyed seven-year-old innocence I dared to correct my (very Soviet) teacher on her comma placement and a spelling mistake. This crime landed me on h
Feb 14, 2010 marked it as to-read
I have, for some reason, frequently been recommended Lynne Truss's book, though the reason escapes me; friends who have been exposed to my academic writing style are particularly prone to do so, and I have grown used to this strange phenomenon. I'm sure it says more about them - poor, unenlightened souls - than it does about me; for some reason, in particular, very few people understand what a wonderful punctuation mark the semi-colon is, and that it can, and very often should, be used to replac ...more
Dan Schwent
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, 2017-books
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation is a humorous book about punctuation. Who knew punctuation could be so entertaining?

As someone who writes a fair bit (half a million words on Goodreads alone), I know my way around a sentence. However, when this popped up on Amazon on the cheap, I was powerless to resist, like my dog on a piece of cat shit.

In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynn Truss takes us on a Bill Bryson-esque odyssey through a forest of commas, apostrophes, colons,
Will Byrnes
Oct 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a delightful screed on the demise of punctuation in contemporary expression. Truss bemoans the loss of knowledge or of interest in proper use of language. Truss is a Brit and the usages have not been modified for the American edition of the book. A must and an enjoyable read for anyone who cares about our language, for any reader. In addition to gripes about the slovenly way that we write, Truss offers some history on punctuation.
Jul 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 w ...more
Jul 31, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who are pedantic and irritating
Shelves: non-fiction
Maybe it's because I suffer from a lack of punctuation know-how!>?>:_; but this book irked me! Maybe it's because I'm a linguist and, while I understand the purpose and value of punctuation, I just can't get all worked up about it. Yeah, we all gotta have good writing skillz. But, most sticklers for punctuation that I know are people who want to lord their intelligence over other people, but don't have much to recommend their intelligence other than a knowledge of when to use a semicolon. Chance ...more
Apr 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of writing, humor, words
I confess: I frequently find myself self-conscious about my use of punctuation. A few years back, I even bought a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, but have yet to read more than a chapter or two at a time before discovering something else to do, even if it’s bathing the dog. Similarly, I procrastinated on reading Eats Shoots & Leaves, and I really shouldn’t have. Full of humor and information, it explains some of the easier nuances to punctuation in a useful and engaging manner. ...more
Dec 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
Lynne Truss pulls off the impressive feat of pumping about 20 pages of expository writing full of enough hot air to go into orbit (or at least top the Bestsellers list for several weeks).

I could probably write a book of equal length (a fluffy and yet tedious 204 pages) going into what a disorganized mess this book is, but I'll spare you. Instead, here are three reasons why you should save yourself the criminal $17.50 this book costs.

First, Truss comes across as such a pretentious, self-importa
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is how I know I'm a real English teacher - I have a shelf dedicated to books just about English. The history of English, the uses and misuses of English, and even the history of the alphabet we use. This is something I never expected to have in my personal library, that's for sure.

But that's all to be expected; I'm an English teacher, and people like me are supposed to read books like this. It's professional development, or something. The weird thing about this book, a book dedicated to pu
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

We're called sticklers. Or grammar nazis. We know the difference between who's & whose & whom, they're & their & there, the correct plural for words or the fact that some words exist only in either singluar or plural and correctly use the comma, semicolon, full stop, exclamation mark and question mark. And by god, we'll make you know the difference, too! :D

It is so refreshing reading a book like this. Honestly. Many people, as the author correctly bemoaned, don't give a damn, but they should. Ev
Nandakishore Mridula
This joke, I think, is fairly well known: a panda after having eaten food in a restaurant, takes a gun and fires a couple of shots into the air before exiting. On being queried by the restaurant owner on his strange behaviour, the panda points to the dictionary entry on himself, which says: “eats, shoots & leaves”. The problems created by an unnecessary comma!

It is this joke that this book takes its title from – though it is not mentioned in this book. However, there are plenty of other examples
Riku Sayuj
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: r-r-rs, reference

Delightful book. Have enlisted for the corps.

Consider: “Using the comma well announces that you have an ear for sense and rhythm, confidence in your style and a proper respect for your reader, but it does not mark you out as a master of your craft. But colons and semicolons—well, they are in a different league, my dear! They give such lift!” author Truss writes. “The humble comma can keep the sentence aloft all right, like this, UP, for hours if necessary, UP, like this, UP, sort- of bouncing, a
I'm a stickler, alright. I cringe every time when I see mistakes which shouldn't appear anywhere, since here punctuation and grammar are being taught in primary school. But it looks like every language has its own tormentors.

Beside being extremely informative, it is in equal measure hilarious. What is it with these books on punctuation that makes them so unputdownable? I've read not long ago Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark, and I loved it. Now this one is even mo
Lynne King
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I found the title intriguing and also the author’s name. I also enjoyed the first words in the Introduction:

“Either this will ring bells for you, or it won’t. A printed banner has appeared on the concourse of a petrol station near to where I live. “Come inside,” it says, “for CD’s, VIDEO’s, DVD’s, and Book’s.”

Such incorrect usage of the apostrophe and it just makes me squirm. I have the same feeling about “its” and “it’s”. I vividly recall learning English grammar at school. It was exceedingly
Diane in Australia
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-misc
Amusing book about punctuation. Amazing to think such a read even exists! Although, I am a supporter of the Oxford comma, I do understand Lynne's thoughts on it. I shall agree to disagree. If you love language, and grammar, you'll probably enjoy this book. I did.

4 Stars = Outstanding. It definitely held my interest.
Feb 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well - I probably enjoyed this short book more than I should have. While my punctuation is not perfect and my reviews always contain typo's that I only spot years later, I still enjoy a good laugh at terrible punctuation.

Lynne Truss has collected some great punctuation faux pas. But more than that, she has provided relatively simple guidance on how to correctly position those commas, apostrophes, hyphens, and the like. (Points for noticing the Oxford comma (used after the and in a list) which I
Jul 25, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really don't see what all the fuss was about this book--the author didn't seem particularly knowledgeable, and her "zero-tolerance" approach seems to do more to promote intolerance than to promote clarity.

In particular, her distaste for "emoticons" seems entirely inconsistent with her fascination with the origins of punctuation--it's as if she thinks of punctuation as a dead thing that _used to be_ alive, but now she doesn't want anyone to disturb the corpse.
John Beeler
Jul 11, 2007 rated it did not like it
This book was a waste of my time. Think of an old guy yelling at a bunch of kids to get off his lawn. Then put that sentence in really good grammar, and that is this book.

It's overwhelmingly pretentious. As far as I am concerned, it generally ignores the way language moves to apparent regression when in fact it is merely changing, as it always does.
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is a witty rant about the use and misuse of punctuation. It has a very high feel good factor. We, the readers, of course know how to use apostrophes correctly, and that writing littered with exclamation marks infers a feeble mind. We know subconsciously, even if not via overt rules, how to use hyphens. We pat pat pat ourselves on the back with being so in accord with this funny woman and her nit-picking usage of grammar.

Ahhhh, except this is the nub of the thing. Lynne Truss in this bo
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thought the idea of a virus that prevents email with improper grammar from being sent was fantastic. The virus ought to be endorsed by all colleges, corporations, and curmudgeons; at least it ought to be stamped with the Trusted Application status once it has been hatched and flown. Of course, that might mean we'll have a great internet dark age when almost everyone will have gone silent. Alas. It's a fun book, I recommend it to everyone. ...more
Aug 12, 2007 rated it it was ok
Sanctimonious prudery that doesn't even get everything right, smartly gutted by Louis Menand in a withering New Yorker review. Meh. ...more
Sep 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fellow Sticklers
Recommended to Kathrynn by: Language and Grammar Group
I thoroughly enjoyed this short, funny book about British punctuation. The author had a wonderful sense of humor and used it throughout the book. This was a quick read, with sections on the:

1. Apostrophe
2. Comma
3. Quotation Marks (single and double)
(Now I understand why I see punctuation in and outside of quotation marks; British place outside while the American custom place inside.)
4. Colon, Semicolon and Interjections
5. Dash, Exclamation, Question, Italics, Underlining...
6. Hyphen
7. Emoticons
I'm undecided as to whether I'm a punctuationally-challenged heathen, or if I qualify as a stickler. I have no formal training (other than my school years) pertaining to punctuation, and if you were to ask me to define the rules pertaining to when a semicolon should be used, I'd probably guess at something close to right... maybe.

Ugh, and see: I'm an ellipses junkie! It's unacceptable, since I am not a famous author who can break the rules with impunity.

However, many of the rules of good punct
Jan 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of the English language, writers
I don't think I "favourite" many non-fiction books but this book was just brilliant! Lynn Truss laments the misuse of our punctuation marks, and the possible future demise of a couple, such as the semi-colon. This book is perfect (or a bit worrying) for grammar and punctuation sticklers. Some of the examples of terrible punctuation use will make you cringe, while others will make you laugh. On top of that, Ms Truss's wit is in a class of its own! There are lots of literary examples of certain wr ...more
Brian Griffith
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Manages to make instruction on writing guidelines fun
May 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Truss' tongue-in-cheek style may not appeal to everyone and I don't agree with her about everything. In particular, "zero tolerance" makes punctuation an end in itself, rather than an aid to meaning, which seems back to front. It also makes no allowance for context and audience.

However, she gave punctuation and grammar a voice, and, however briefly, made people think about language, ambiguity and meaning, which is certainly good. Or it would be, if it didn't fuel the fire in the bellies of extr
Oct 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2007, humour
To be honest, I never heard the panda joke until this book came out. The Australian version is a bit different - not as clever and involved, perhaps, but funny nonetheless. It went something like (and I am the worst person at re-telling jokes, I always forget bits. Usually the punchline): What does an Aussie bloke have in common with a wombat? They both eat, shoots and leaves. Except that's not quite it cause the grammar is off. Never let me tell a joke, I'll always ruin it.

Anyway, to the book.
Sep 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: linguistics
Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a hilarious, heartfelt, and at times long-suffering love letter to punctuation. Lynn Truss had me laughing out loud and re-reading bits of text to myself—no small feat given that I read the book in the midst of a pandemic. Truss is not content to simply bemoan the fact that standards of punctuation today are abysmal; she attempts to help readers understand and appreciate the beauty of punctuation. She passionately argues that punctuation is not a set of dusty rules f ...more
Nov 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
According to Lynne Truss, I'm a "stickler". I've been known to spend a good hour or more obsessing over the placement of a comma, a semi-colon, a hyphen, a dash. Are my brackets formed correctly? Have I left my sentence hanging on a cliff-edge with a poorly placed dash?

Even worse is the feeling that occurs when coming across such a cliff-edge while reading; a stomach lurching queasiness that something doesn't feel right, and if only that editor had paid a little more attention we wouldn't be in
May 20, 2020 rated it liked it
If only grammar and punctuation had been taught with the degree of humor in Eats, Shoots and Leaves (all subjects could have used a healthy dose of laughs). Do most people correctly use conventional punctuation marks, or do most people just not care where that damn comma, semicolon, or apostrophe belongs?

I enjoyed learning many interesting facts about the evolution of punctuation. Who knew it was developed centuries ago so actors could recite their lines with accurate pauses and emphasis? Just a
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Play Book Tag: Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss - 4 stars 3 19 Mar 06, 2020 09:41AM  
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Lynne Truss is a writer and journalist who started out as a literary editor with a blue pencil and then got sidetracked. The author of three novels and numerous radio comedy dramas, she spent six years as the television critic of The Times of London, followed by four (rather peculiar) years as a sports columnist for the same newspaper. She won Columnist of the Year for her work for Women's Journal ...more

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“A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder.

"I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”
“Thurber was asked by a correspondent: "Why did you have a comma in the sentence, 'After dinner, the men went into the living-room'?" And his answer was probably one of the loveliest things ever said about punctuation. "This particular comma," Thurber explained, "was Ross's way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up.” 101 likes
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