I should apology. I haven't felt much like writing this week and am way behind in reading blogs. The next couple weeks won't be any better, but I'll be back. Here is a review of a book that I enjoyed.
Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (2003: New York: Gotham Books, 2006), 209 pages.
Imagine laughing out loud while reading a book on punctuation. Surely I’m joking. It’d take some good drugs to get a person laughing while reading a book on punctuation, or at least that’s what I thought before reading Eat, Shoots & Leaves. Without any chemical help, I found myself at times chuckling and other times rolling on the floor laughing. This is a funny book that drives home the necessity of punctuation, including telling the story about an Irishman hanged on a comma. Well, not exactly, but he did tried to defend himself based on missing punctuation in the legal code’s definition of treason (99f).
Lynne Truss is a charming British slut. Well, maybe she’s not a slut but I’m not sure what else you would you call a woman that swoons over semicolons (111) and offers to have babies for of the inventor of italic type (77). As an American reader of this book, I had to bite my lip and accept her additional “U’s” (as opposed to Us), her tendency to replace the noble “Z” with the common “S,” along with her criticism of American punctuation habits (but in fairness, she even criticized her own country’s tendencies in adding or not adding dots and sperm-like characters into text). Whether or not she’s a slut, Truss is an activist, calling on her fellow zero-tolerance folks to rise up and force grocers (green-grocers, as she calls ‘em) to abide by punctuation rules.
So what did I learn from reading this book? First of all, I realize now more than ever that I need to become famous. That way I don’t have to worry about punctuation as she gives plenty of examples of famous authors known for flaunting punctuation rules (88). A second thing I learned is that my secretary is from the old school (even though she’s much younger than me). She’s addicted to the Oxford Comma (and keeps adding these into my letters and reports). I, on the other hand, feel like the extra comma is about as unnecessary as Ms. Truss’ “U’s” (or is it Truss’s? Read pages 54-58 and then flip a coin). The Oxford Comma occurs when you have a list and you put a comma before the “and,” (This, that, and the other—as opposed to “This, that and the other). A third epiphany for me was the realization that semi-colons are sexy. I don’t know why it took Truss to get this point over to me, for there have been only two women in my life who have complimented me on my punctuation and in both occasions it was for my semi-colons. Semi-colons are kind of sexy; they flirt, indicating that we should expect something to come.
Applying my own logic to Ms. Truss’ wisdom, I’ve decided that excessive concern over hyphenation will lead to hypertension. And, just in case you don’t know the difference, hyphenation isn’t the same as hibernation.
Read this book. Laugh while learning bits of punctuation history. Punctuation, as Ms. Truss points out, is in constant flux which is good news for those of us who didn’t learn it the first time around. Wonder if it has changed enough to warrant me going back and having my high school English grades re-evaluated?
For other book reviews by Sage, click here.
For Semicolon's Saturday's list of book reviews in blogs, click here.