Book #11

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Now, we all know the basics of punctuation. Or do we? A look at most neighborhood signage tells a different story. Through sloppy usage and low standards on the internet, in e-mail, and now text messages, we have made proper punctuation an endangered species.
In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Truss dares to say that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled. From the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, this lively history makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with.

I have very high standards when it comes to grammar and punctuation. I’m no pedant or stickler, and would never angrily accost someone for errant use of an apostrophe, but I do like things to be done properly. I recognise, however, I am no superwoman, so bought this book in the hopes of learning something.

There was some really interesting information on the origin of punctuation, on uses which have now fallen out of fashion, and on the poor members of the punctuation family who have now become extinct. I found this insightful, and (I have to be honest), quite exciting. Write me off immediately as a saddo; I don’t care.

My problem was the main thing I learned here, which is Lynne Truss is a horrible person. I worked this out quickly (reading a couple of pages of the introduction should do it), and it marred the book for me entirely. No one wants to listen to someone they dislike, and let me tell you I disliked Truss.

Her commentary reeked of her own self-importance, she slagged off anyone with the audacity to make a punctuation error, and even threatened people with death, guns, and violence should they incorrectly punctuate a sentence. There is no fucking need.

She seems to forget not all of us are from the same background. We’re even treated to an anecdote of a punctuation novel she was reading whilst all the other girls her age were out having abortions. I’m not kidding. This holier than thou attitude permeated through each page, completely disengaging me and, frankly, making me hate her. And she ticked every single dirty box in my book - classist, ableist, sexist, even racist. It was foul.

Although peppered with interesting tidbits, I would happily forego anything I learned from this to go back to a life where I had never read it.