Friday, December 21, 2007

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss (4/5 star)

I was very curious about this book; it is a best-selling novel that is primarily about punctuation, how can you go wrong?

The layout to the book is fairly simple and the style is replicated for each chapter. In each chapter Truss tells some funny anecdotes about the punctuation being discussed; she give some examples of how misusing the punctuation can change the meaning of the whole sentence. She then discusses the proper use of the punctuation and follows that with a history of how the punctuation got to be where it is today. Full chapters are given to the discussion of the comma and the apostrophe. Colons, semi-colons, braces, etc. are combined in the two final chapters.

Now you are asking, “How can this book be interesting?” If you have ever wondered if you are doing your punctuation properly, it will be interesting. If you have ever wondered where the strange punctuations we use come from, it will be interesting to you. If you have never wondered any of the above, then the examples of punctuation missteps given will probably have you chuckling anyway.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book and some I disliked. I will give a list of each below.

- I liked the humor in the book.
- Descriptions of how to use the punctuation were easy to understand.
- The brief histories’ of the punctuations were also interesting.
- Truss does a good job of comparing American and English punctuation; so even though Truss in an English author, us Americans don’t feel left out.
- The book was nicely organized and well-written (although this should be a given considering the topic).
- This book really drives home the point of how subjective punctuation is and how flexible and variable the rules of punctuation are.
- It really made me start to pay more attention to my usage of punctuation.
- The anecdotal stories about punctuation usage provide great examples and are interesting.

- In some cases it makes the proper use of punctuation more muddy than ever. It drives home the fact that the more you learn about a thing, the more you realize you don’t (and never will) fully understand it.
- There is a lot of self-gratifying (for the author) ranting about the misusage of punctuation. This could be good or bad depending on if you relate to the author’s rants or not.
- An English author wrote this book; there are many references in English language that might be confusing to an American reader. Many of the punctuations have different names in British English than in American English – the author does make an attempt to address this.
- The topic of “where will books be in the future” is briefly visited in the last chapter. This is such a large and controversial topic that I think it might have been better to not bring it up at all than to mention it, but then say that it’s not going to be discussed.
- This book also makes me think way too much about my punctuation now; I suppose that could be a good thing.

Overall this was a good book to read. It is not that difficult to read and is a great layman’s book on punctuation. It provides great insight into the controversial world of punctuation debate and usage. If you have ever been in doubt over whether or not you have a semi-colon addiction; this is the book for you!

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