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Book 14: Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Book 14: Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
Author: Lynne Truss, 2003.
Genre: Humour. Non-fiction. Language.
Other Details: Paperback. 2006 Edition with Punctuation Repair Kit. 306 pages.

Subtitled 'The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation', this is a playful exploration of English punctuation as well as a comic rant on various crimes against punctuation. Although not a guide as such, each chapter does offer a discussion of the history and use of various punctuation marks. She also does note the different conventions in punctuation usage between UK English and USA English.

Although a light-hearted book, it does seem to have caused a few folk to get their knickers in a twist; perhaps due to their failing to take on board Truss' wit and her ability to mock her desire to correct signage that is punctuated incorrectly. My edition contains a 'Free Punctuation Repair Kit' including the delightful 'The Panda says No!' stickers. As the WWF has known since its inception in 1961, pandas have appeal.


Who could hate a book with this panda bear in it?


Truss does freely state that the conventions of grammar and punctuation are always changing, as befits a living language. She may be a self-proclaimed stickler but she is also clearly a realist. So while the book has been associated with 'grammar bullies', its tone does not reflect that. Although a work of humour, it has inspired a few parodies/critiques that have taken inspiration from its quirky title, which refers to the Panda joke reproduced for those who may not know it below the cut.

From the back blurb of 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves' -

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

'Why?' asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

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

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. 'Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'

This has been a fun and informative book that I have carried around with me for the last couple of months to fill in those odd moments and found it perfect to dip into.


Lynne Truss on 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves' - on how she came to write it.

In December 2006 The Guardian Book Club featured Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Below are the related articles:

Comma Chameleon - 16 December 2006.
Podcast with Lynne Truss - 21 December 2006 - includes Q&A with readers.
Dash ist gut! - punctuation is an art - 23 December 2006.
Late addictions - Lynne Truss on finding new material after publication- 30 December 2006
Beauty Marks - Book Club responses - 6 January 2007

Alternative views:

Punctuation is no place for zero tolerance - David Crystal - The Guardian
Author takes on the Queen of Commas - on Crystal vs Truss.
Tags: british, humor, non-fiction
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