Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
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A bona fide publishing phenomenon, Lynne Truss?s now classic #1 New York Times bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves makes its paperback debut after selling over 3 million copies worldwide in hardcover.

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, 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. 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.

Customer Reviews:

  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
    Lynne has written a marvelous book for all of us who love the world of punctuation and grammar. She fills her book with great British humor and wonderful examples of the good, bad, and ugly of punctuation usage. As an American writer I must remember her warning in the beginning of the book, indicating her use of preferred British punctuation usage to that of the United States. Setting that issue aside and keeping in mind the differences, I enjoyed the book immensely....more info
  • When was the last time a book changed your life?
    Seriously, when was the last time you read a book where you could literally say, "This book has changed my life." Eat, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss is one such book.

    At first I thought a zero tolerance approach to punctuation sounded a bit extreme. That is until Truss mentioned one of my favorite movies ("Two Weeks Notice"), pointing out that the title should be "Two Weeks' Notice". I was shocked. I had always assumed an apostrophe was there. Then I started listening to The Plain White T's, a band whose name makes no sense with an apostrophe, and I knew things were getting serious.

    Nonetheless I will admit that it was a challenge reading the chapters about the apostrophe and the comma (although I have learned a few knew tricks for commas). Then I came to a chapter entitled "Airs and Graces." From there onward, the book was a revelation.

    I learned my punctuation from my mom and copious reading. I still have a hard time explaining dependent clauses and why it is appropriate to use "well" instead of "good" even though I can tell when a sentence is complete/written correctly if I can read it. I am sharing this background so that when I say Truss explains all of the punctuation rules presented in her book you will know I mean really clear.

    Truss has illustrated that there is a time and place for the dash and double-dash in all good literature. She has also shown that, to avoid over-using the dash, a colon can easily replace a dash in certain situations. I never knew that!

    What's nice about Eats, Shoots and Leaves is that it's not a dry read. Yes, Truss is talking about punctuation. Yes, she is deadly serious about it. But she maintains a sense of humor throughout: including witty examples and poking fun at punctuation (and punctuation sticklers) as much as she explains it. In addition, Truss includes abundant historical information about the punctuation marks she discusses ranging from the first names for parentheses to the first appearance of an apostrophe in printed documents.

    I would recommend this book highly to anyone with an interest in writing. Even if you know the basics, Truss has a few tricks up her sleeve that are sure to give your writing a little extra flair. ...more info
  • GREAT Book
    This book had me laughing out loud. It also made me think....more info
  • A love of phrases
    Being fond of phrases and in general the correct use of the English language our family found this book both amusing and true. Of course we all use the language in our own way and sometimes our errors are more interesting than the correct way and thats okay too.
    ...more info
  • Eats, Shoots, and Leaves
    Pretty good book. Helpful in its area of punctuation. Recommend it to those English strugglers.Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation...more info
  • I could not have been more wrong
    Yes, that's right, 5 Stars for a book about proper punctuation. I fully expected to get through this book only for my 2008 Challenges. In my mind's eye I saw myself reading a page or two and then falling sound asleep from boredom. I could not have been more wrong.

    Not only does Lynne Truss make punctuation interesting, she makes it funny. She knows just were little punctuation puns fit. Who knew there were 17 proper uses for the apostrophe?! There was, at onetime, a movement to have a special mark to indicate a rhetorical question. As is stated on the front flap, "Through sloppy usage and low standards on the Internet, in e-mail, and now "txt msgs", we have made proper punctuation an endangered species." (not to mention proper spelling)

    I've given this book 5 Stars not only because I enjoyed it, but because I think all of us who have been out of the classroom for 10 years or more could use a refresher....more info
  • Laughed so hard that the neighbors came to check on me!
    Who hasn't received teacher newsletters or PTA flyers in the cubbybag of the sweet urchin returning to the family nest every afternoon. The parent sorts through the spelling tests, free-time drawings, and English writing lessons in search of the weekly newsletter sent by the teacher.

    But first, have a spot of tea. Lean back and relax in anticipation of the sweet innocence and unfailing optimism about to be so touchingly crafted in this message from the teacher. The opening sentence of a paragraph about a recent field trip to the zoo is read. And read again. And reread one more time.

    "The kides, excitement, new no bounds. The class brought along it's camera, All most from the time the gates open our class. Different assistant was given too supervise manage, and keep together their group's as their was so much to see and it was! Truly. a sight! . . ."

    The newsletter goes on to share amusing stories of the students on their trip, their reactions to the various exhibits, and the gentle sound of snoring that filled the bus on its return trip home. (This remains still open to interpretation since the reader is left with only her own personal skill level in decrypting the remainder of the missive.)

    As another writer who is compelled by a Higher (lower?) Power to enforce a Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, I am in a quandary. Red pen poised above the newsletter, I am ready to strike a blow not ONLY in the name of Punctuation, but Grammar, Syntax, and Spelling as well!

    A timely breeze of reality blows through my mind. This was written by my daughter's first grade teacher. She is also the passer-outer of gold stars, smiles, band-aids, security and emotional support for my daughter. Perhaps bleeding all over the paper with what is sure to be a gallon of red ink before all is finished is not the best way to go. Once again, I will request a quiet parent conference for which I will leave my red pen at home and pack my happy pills instead....more info
  • A joy to read
    This book was a joy to read for me, and it was also research at the same time. I never realized how many punctuation errors people make. Some of these errors drive me crazy, too. I can't stand when people confuse their, there, and they're. This book was good research for me because I wrote my own book about English grammar, but only one chapter deals with punctuation.

    The humor in this book is dry. So if you're not a grammar nut, you're definitely not going to like this book.

    Brandon Simpson...more info
  • Perfecting Punctuation
    Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation provides clear examples of common gramatical errors. The examples are clever and easy to understand. This book allows the writer to perfect punctuation without putting him or her to sleep. This book is great for everyday use, but not reccommended for people writing technical works that involve more complex styles such as APA etc....more info
  • punctuation without pain
    Best and most readable book I've ever read on this subject. ...more info
  • Interesting Read Whether You Care About Punctuation or Not
    This is a wonderful book. If you are a stickler for punctuation, and want a hilarious refresher course, this is the book for you. Among other topics, Truss covers commas, dashes, and little used punctuation marks. Her examples are funny and prove that punctuation does matter. If you are a stickler for punctuation, this is a must-read. If you are not a punctuation fanatic, you will still get a few laughs and learn something along the way- not a bad deal for a book on punctuation. ...more info
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
    A fabulously witty book that still manages to be educational. "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" is a must-read for those whose school days are a dim memory. Do ellipses leave you puzzled? How about dashes and brackets? If so, have no fear. Lynne Truss will set your punctuation quandaries straight with punctilious humor.

    Those of who are 'sticklers' can hold our heads high; we now have a champion who's not afraid to crack the whip on errant apostrophes and misplaced commas. Ms. Truss' descriptive prose and laugh (or groan) out loud examples make this a laudable contender for "least boring book on punctuation" ever published.

    If you fume when you come across blatant errors in the books you read; if you've ever deleted an email because the sender didn't know the difference between they're/there/their; if you've actually offered to correct a restaurant's menu (is that just me?) - then you shouldn't miss adding this book to your library - or maybe leaving it casually on your desk for your illiterate boss to see?...more info
  • Bestseller for a Reason
    Lynne Truss describes her book Eats, Shoots & Leaves perfectly: "If there is one lesson to be learned from this book, it is that there is never a dull moment in the world of punctuation" (125). Though its classification as a book dedicated solely to discussing punctuation may convince potential readers that it could be nothing but boring, the book's pages are filled with unexpected treasures which captivate the reader's attention. Truss herself was surprised at how well the book sold. In the book's preface, she tells, "My book was aimed at the tiny minority of British people `who love punctuation and don't like to see it mucked about with'" (xvii). But Truss's work reached far past her intended audience, across the Atlantic Ocean and into the homes of many who certainly would not call themselves punctuation-lovers. She further explains, "no one involved in the production of Eats, Shoots & Leaves expected the words `runaway' and `bestseller' would ever be associated with it, let alone upon the cover of an American edition" (xvii). Yet `runaway' and `bestseller' certainly have become associated with the book, both in the UK and US, leaving Truss and her company shocked but certainly pleased. Why is the book such a success, even beyond its intended audience? Truss's book is a universally enjoyable read because it is an equal balance of appealing to Logos, Ethos, and Pathos, making it attractive to a wide variety of readers.

    One way in which Eats, Shoots & Leaves appeals to Logos is through its brilliant lay-out. Truss breaks the material up into readable sections, dividing the book into chapters which discuss individual punctuation elements and further divides these chapters into subsections. This clear-cut layout appeals to the logical mind through its easy-to-spot organization and is also desirable for less-serious readers, who need not feel obligated to commit to reading a large block of text but can instead feel at ease as they proceed effortlessly from page to page, the text and information being absorbed quickly and painlessly (even pleasantly).

    Moreover, the book appeals to Logos in its comprehensive nature. Truss provides a well-defined list of the uses of each piece of punctuation, explaining each use through examples. She takes care to go over (in detail) each punctuation mark, outlining each chapter in a similar way, first giving background information, stories, and providing a general discussion of the punctuation mark, then giving a list of each specific use of the punctuation mark, providing meaningful examples, and concluding with other meaningful commentary on the effect of each mark.

    Truss's abundant examples are logically appealing. When she explains an element of punctuation, Truss is sure to include examples which clearly illustrate the importance of that element. For example, in her introduction, Truss illuminates the importance of choosing correct punctuation, juxtaposing two statements whose difference in meaning comes only because of punctuation usage: "A woman, without her man, is nothing," is contrasted with "A woman: without her, man is nothing" (9). Truss's point is inarguably made that simple punctuation marks can make a grave difference in meaning. Truss's useful examples, depth, and clear lay-out make the book appealing to the logical mind.

    Truss is also successful in appealing to Ethos. The pages of her book are scattered with historical facts and stories, showing her immense knowledge of the subject and drawing in readers of a more authority-trusting nature. For example, in introducing the semicolon, she states that, "the first printed semicolon was the work of good old Aldus Manutis just two years after Columbus sailed to the New world, and at the same date and place as the invention of double-entry book-keeping" (111). Through sharing this and similar facts, Truss assures her reader that she is knowledgeable about her topic. Likewise, she later gives a short history of the hyphen: "The name comes from Greek, as usual [...] the phrase from which we derive hyphen means `under one' or `into one' or `together'" (169). Truss's depth of understanding of the history and meaning of her subject give her a sense of authority, causing readers to trust her words.

    Perhaps the most successful aspect of Truss's book, though, is her appeal to Pathos. Her primary vehicle for emotional appeal is humor, and the book is filled with it. Her audience may detect her humor through her unique voice. From the first page of the book's introduction, it is apparent. As a warning to her readers, she introduces her annoyance with incorrect use of apostrophes, saying, "If this satanic sprinkling of redundant apostrophes causes no little gasp of horror or quickening of the pulse, you should probably put this book down at once" (1). Her informal writing style is appealing and classifies her book as a light, fun read, not a heavy discourse (which people would likely try to avoid). Those who are "sticklers," as Truss calls them, can relate to the gasps and pace quickening she references, and her causal voice allows even those who don't experience these sensations to at least find humor in the obsession of others. These less-sticklerish readers may even be tempted to go against Truss's advice and continue reading, captivated by her style.

    Some of Truss's distinctly British phrases are another source of humor, most especially to American readers who are not accustomed to them. When talking about the "full stop" or period, she observes that, "by contrast to the versatile apostrophe, they are stolid little chaps, to say the least" (46). Later, expressing her exasperation resulting from attempting to break down and understand a previous phrase (about Elton John), she writes, "Well pass me the oxygen, Elton, and for heaven's sake, stop banging on about your glitzy mates for a minute while I think" (60). For the American reader, unaccustomed to such phrases as "banging on" and "glitzy mates," Truss's voice becomes even more humorous, making her book ever more attractive.

    A final tool which Truss uses to humorous effect is personification. Punctuation becomes more interesting to her audience as she truly brings it alive, acting as though each punctuation mark possesses thoughts and feelings. At one point, Truss states: "In this chapter, I want to examine punctuation as an art. Naturally, therefore, this is where the colon and semicolon waltz in together, to a big cheer from all the writers in the audience" (105). Truss's description of two punctuation marks dancing provides a playful image in the reader's mind as is absurd enough to render the text more enjoyable. Similarly, Truss gives a summary of the uses of many punctuation marks through the use of personification: "In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practices the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly" (137-138). This lively metaphor puts the roles of punctuation marks in common, identifiable terms which readers can likely relate to. This and many similar uses of metaphor and personification contribute to the tone of the book- a much more playful tone than may be expected from its subject matter, thus appealing to the emotions of the audience.

    Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves is truly a success, even beyond its intended audience scope. She appeals to Logos through a usable layout and comprehensive examples, to Ethos by providing in-depth, reliable background information, and to Pathos through her use of humor, evidenced by her casual voice and through personification and metaphor. Thus, she is able to reach a wide variety of audience members, many whom are unintended. All of these elements combine to create a bestseller book which reads quickly, is informative, and entertains. Even though it's a book about punctuation, a topic of arguable interest, it is truly a difficult book to put down.
    ...more info
  • As delightfull as the joke abot the panda!
    Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a delightful, light hearted look at the good, the bad and the simply incorrect of English grammar, told in straight forward, funny, personal style. Anyone who cares about written English must read this brief yet detailed discussion of the when, where and why of placing commas, simi-colons and the dreaded colon. Lynn Truss abley demonstrates her knowledge of the subject as well as the language used in discussing it. A small book packed with valuable information on punctuation, Eats, Shoots & Leaves should be on every writer's book shelf....more info
  • You wouldn't think a book about punctuation would be hillarious, but...
    this one really is. Lynne Truss found a way to have every page of her book about punctuation be really, really fun to read and chock full of witty humor. If you're like me (someone who gets disproportionately upset and frazzled when I see someone using a "your" when it should be "you're", for example), you'll love what's in this book.

    Eats, Shoots & Leaves manages to be very informative and funny at the same time. Read it and help save punctuation!...more info
  • A humorous take on our growing ineptitude
    I'm not certain I have ever read a more humorously insightful essay on the state of notation in our language. Kudos to Ms. Truss on making punctuation fun again (but, then again, was it ever?)....more info
  • From someone who actually read the book
    After reading some of the negative comments listed here, I am left wondering again how often people review books they haven't actually read. As near as I can tell, all of the criticisms of Lynne Truss' book (and yes, she does comment on the ambiguity of punctuating her own name), are actually addressed by her. She is very aware that the rules of punctuation are often vague and self-contradictory. She is too self-deprecating to be characterized as pedantic, and she is very funny (and very British). Her skill at sneaking up on you repeatedly with the same recycled punchlines rivals that of the master, Dave Barry. I mean that as high compliment.

    If readers just remembers that Truss writes for laughs as much as she writes for education, they will be very happy. As for the humorless reviewers here, I refer you to her own jokes about the insufferablity of "sticklers". Lighten up. ...more info
  • Some clever points, but dull.
    Some of the examples Truss shares in this book are enjoyable to read, but I don't find reading grammar primers to be all that enjoyable. The only salvation Truss has in this writing is the last chapter that describes the impact of "webspeak" on the English language....more info
  • funny and insightful
    This is a great book and makes a subject that can easily be boring funny....more info
  • Lynn Truss should be on the Queen's Honours list!!!!
    Lynn Truss should be awarded on the Queen's Honours List for her services to language. After all, the common perception that punctuation is not that crucial to the art of the language is terrifying. After all, a misplaced comma, semi-colon, exclamation point, and period can wreck havoc in the perceptions of those who think that there is nothing wrong. Truss has it right that the definition of a panda is that he eats shoots and leaves and how the comma is purposely misplaced to make a point. A panda doesn't eat, shoot, and leave in actions. He eats shoots (maybe bamboo shoots) and tree leaves possibly. For those of us who teach language arts, I admire Truss' ability to reach out and educate the readers with a sense of humor. Punctuation is never really taught to the extent that it should be in our schools. Two Weeks Notice is missing an apostrophe over the "s" in weeks and we see the author in the back cover of the book trying to put it there....more info
  • Interesting and pathetic at once.
    This book would be difficult to read for someone who doesn't use such words. Dry, dry, dry humour. Somehow leaves you expecting more. A bit sarcastic, this book is merely a time passer at best. If only it was more present based than history lesson like. Sorry, just my opinion....more info
  • Informative + Entertaining
    Lynne Truss brings an obscure element of language to the fore and in doing so exposes some of the effects of unbridled change in the name of progress. Her second book "Talk to the Hand" is even better. ...more info
  • Great book!
    This book is not for everyone, but if you're a stickler for using the right words with the right punctuation, then this is for you! I loved it!...more info
  • Perfect Gift
    Since first reading this book when it first came out, I have purchased about a dozen copies as gifts for students and for friends and former colleagues whose jobs require a lot of report writing. Though toungue-in-cheeky, this very entertaining book provides all the how-tos and whys you'll need in practically every writing situation....more info
  • Passionate about Punctuation
    "A woman, without her man, is nothing.
    A woman: without her, man is nothing." ~ pg. 9

    It is probably not unusual to feel slightly uncomfortable while reading a book on grammar or punctuation. "How many mistakes have I made?" you may ask yourself. As someone who grew up in a country that called parentheses "brakets" I have reason to feel slightly more at home with some of the British usage.

    For the most part the book is strangely entertaining. Is it funny? To be honest I laughed three times by page ten and then didn't again until page 63 and 92. So it is humorous in places. I must also say that I'm siding with anyone who hates the Oxford comma.

    Lynne Truss spends a lot of time explaining its and it's. One third of the book is dedicated to the apostrophe. Which I must say had many good examples. The rest of the book is dedicated to colons, semicolons, question marks, exclamation marks, commas, hyphens, parentheses and quotation marks.

    "The basic rule is straightforward and logical: when the punctuation relates to the quoted words it goes inside the inverted commas; when it relates to the sentence, it goes outside. Unless, of course, you are in America." ~ pg. 155

    My only real complaint is that the publisher did not adapt the entire book for an American audience. Comments are made about the difference in usage, but otherwise you are left to fend for yourself.

    ~ The Rebecca Review
    ...more info
  • Funny and informative.
    Who ever would have thought punctuation could be so funny (or controversial)?

    I really enjoyed this book, and I'm glad I read it. It surprised me how much I know about punctuation; where did I learn that? I'm certain I was absent most of high school. I did learn a thing or two (like the difference between who's and whose ... who knew?) But I think the tricky areas of punctuation will still remain tricky for me. Also, I'm an abuser of the eplipsis, and will probably stay that way.

    Truss's sense of humor is quite keen; the humor alone made the book worth reading.

    Plus, my new-found understanding of the semi-colon ....

    (p.s. semi-colons seem a bit pretentious, don't they?)
    ...more info
  • Punctuation perfect
    This is the definitive and fun book for punctuation in the English language. I give a copy to each of my children and grandchildren who are attending college....more info
  • best "grammar" type book out there
    I have taught English all my professional life and currently teach writing at Miami Dade College (Wolfson Campus). This is the absolutely best book available to made not only punctuation but sentence creating more educationally available to students. It should be a textbook and not most of those other useless things filled with useless pages of exercises that don't do anything to improve students' (writers') ability to proof read their drafts. Eric Selby...more info
  • a resource waiting to be used!
    I honestly believe that every person who uses the English language should be required to read this book. I know that my punctuation usage is not yet perfect, but I am grateful to have had many questions answered by this book. I suppose that I can be labelled a "stickler," but even I have had questions at times and did not know where to look since even style guides each have their own opinions.
    Lynne Truss has done her research, and she explains punctuation and sentence structure very clearly. This book was a joy to read, not only for its clarity, but also for the author's intelligent, witty sense of humor. This is a book that I will read and re-read, over and over, for the rest of my days. ...more info
  • Perfect for grammar nerds!
    This book was funny and informative. I recommend it to all English teachers and grammar nerds. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is because the humor is redundant so I found myself rolling my eyes a bit by the end....more info
  • The content is engaging
    It's a fun read, with some educational value to it. As long as you choose to have fun with the book, you will be glad you picked it up....more info
  • Delightful!
    I never thought that I'd ever find myself in a quiet, public room, sitting by the fireside after an afternoon of skiing, surrounded by other hotel guests, and suddenly laughing out loud while I read a book about, of all things, punctuation. However, despite the seemingly dull topic, I found this short little gem of a book to be wonderfully written and, at times, absolutely hilarious. Lynne Truss has a sense of humor that would probably enable her to make almost any topic you can think of funny. In this particular case, if you know the English language and you love to read, you'll find "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" to be truly delightful! ...more info
  • A mostly overdramatic punctuation companion
    Perhaps a book best enjoyed by English majors, writers, and general punctuation loonies. This manifesto otherwise provides ammunition for the `get a life and just use grammar check' crowd. Truss is quite militant in both her indictment of and attack plan against bad punctuation; she WILL NOT stand the assault of comma misuse any longer. Rectification includes: white out, felt markers, and a gun. So it's easy to see why she sometimes feels the Sisyphus of the punctuation realm and at least she acknowledges her neurosis. This short exercise primarily serves as her steam vent via humorous anecdotes and some punctuation genealogy with general pointers (otherwise found in your beloved Strunk and White or MLA Handbook) on commas, apostrophes, parentheses, periods, dashes, and my beloved semicolon....more info
  • Wonderfully entertaining and educational!
    What a fantastic book. I consider myself a stickler, too, and this book helped me laugh at both myself and the mistakes of those around me in all aspects of life. Thanks to the author for a great book full of humor and useful instruction....more info
  • A must have for anyone without anything valuable to contribute!
    Do you lack a sense of humor? Do you often find yourself lost in a conversation for want of facts or background? Does it bother you that you can't keep up while your friends are making nuanced and critical observations? Then you, my friend, have nothing valuable to contribute. This can often lead to feelings of inadequacy but, now, there's help. Thanks to this marvelous little manifesto of pig-headedness, you can learn how to be an enormous pedantic jerk in only a few days. Now you don't need to make valuable contributions to a conversation to make the others look stupid! You can just appeal to an arbitrarily contrived set of social conventions like grammar, and then sit back with a self-satisfied grin on your face. Your friends are guaranteed to love your newfound lack of personality, your smug demeanor, and your love of formalism and vacuous procedure. In no time at all, they'll be sure to stop assailing you with a misused jumble of symbols. In fact, they'll probably stop talking to you altogether. Call now!...more info