Book Review “Eats, Shoots, & Leaves”

January 20, 2009


by Lynne Truss

Okay, so on the surface, a book described as “Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuaction” doesn’t exactly sound  like a riveting read, and it’s not – but, it will have you laughing out loud in the most public of places.  I’m not a grammarian, but Ms Truss possesses a command of English that is truly impressive and inspiring – when bundled with wry wit, you can’t help but smirk and snigger from beginning to end.

eatsshootsandleavesOddly enough, after my first read, I find myself using the book as a legitimate reference (on account of a blend of traditional writing style and reasonably frequent DOs and DONT style lists).

Ms Truss has her detractors.  They’re a well-equipped, vocal and passionate group these grammarians, and whilst I don’t agree this particular one’s point, I do like good rant – in particular, the last sentence 🙂 – Y.P.R.: Eat, Shoot, & Leave This!: Dear Lynne Truss.

In any case, the following extracts should give you a feel for the content:


Back cover

A panda goes into a café, orders a sandwich, eats it, takes out a revolver, fires it into the air, and goes out. When the waiter calls to ask what is going on, the panda plunks a badly punctuated wildlife manual onto the table and growls: “Look me up.” The waiter finds the entry: “PANDA. Large, black-and-white, bear-like mammal native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.” (from “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” by Lynne Truss)


One of the most profound things ever said about punctuation came in an old style guide of the Oxford University Press in New York. “If you take hyphens seriously,” it said, “you will surely go mad.” And it’s true. Just look how the little blighter escaped all previous categorisation until I had to hunt it down on its own for this teeny-weeny, hooked-on, after-thought-y chapter. It’s a funny old mark, the hyphen. Always has been. People have argued for its abolition for years: Woodrow Wilson said the hyphen was “the most un-American thing in the world” (note the hyphen required in “un-American”); Churchill said hyphens were “a blemish, to be avoided wherever possible”. Yet there will always be a problem about getting rid of the hyphen: if it’s not extra-marital sex (with a hyphen), it is perhaps extra marital sex, which is quite a different bunch of coconuts. Phrases abound that cry out for hyphens. Those much-invoked examples of the litde used car, the superfluous hair remover, the pickled herring merchant, the slow moving traffic and the two hundred odd members of the Conservative Party would all be lost without it. (From “A Little Used Punctuation Mark” chapter of “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” by Lynne Truss)

“Extra-marital” – classic!

Links: Eat, Shoots and Leaves Official Site | Amazon Details & Review


Be Sociable, Share!
, , , , , , ,

About Justin Moss

An information and engineering technologist. Unabashedly opinionated, open-minded and an oft overthinker. Born Sydney Australia, home of the 'Southerly Buster'

View all posts by Justin Moss

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply