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Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

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Lynne Truss begins by thanking all the writers, editors and hundreds of members of the public who responded to articles in The Daily Telegraph, The Author and Writers' News and Truss writes that it was good to know that she was not alone in her zero tolerance to punctuation. There are a lot of them out there. Or should I say us? This book has made me realise that there are others just like me and that I too, am a stickler and have 'Punctuitis' (as I like to call it), albeit quite mildly.

This is the whole point of the book. Either you get upset about punctuation or you don't. My entire family see my 'Punctuitis' as a sad, lonely sort of condition, brought on entirely by oneself and the hallmark of a petty, small minded and pedantic sort of person. That used to make me feel a bit sad. It's true, I'm not altogether happy that I am the sort of person who feels faint at greengrocers' signs and is moved to take a paintbrush to billboard hoardings and correct the wretchedly mis-punctuated film Two Weeks Notice. Why is there no apostrophe? If it were one week, then surely the missing item would have been spotted.

Truss observes; "Either this will ring bells for you, or it won't." The rung bells are the important matters of redundant or missing apostrophes, meaningless commas and sprinklings of dots and dashes like an awful rash. In this world of plummeting standards the stickler is continually tormented. "The sight of the plural word "Book's" with an apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages of bereavement, though greatly accelerated." When words such as phenomena, media and cherubim are treated as singular, I feel rage building up inside.

Truss offers some very practical advice for those suffering from more extreme forms of 'Punctuitis', such as; if you take hyphens seriously you will surely run mad and it's best to remember them only to avoid serious cases of letter collision. Also, never forget that a comma may become a life or death matter and the "yob's comma" is a well-known and well-documented affliction which appears to be spreading and may achieve pandemic status, if aggressive treatment is not applied.

This book certainly did ring bells for me and I was transfixed, muttering agreement, sharing the small shocks and generally behaving very strangely from page one. My rational side knows that there are more important things in life and that I should observe the errors, maybe privately correct them and then just get over it. Alas, sticklers simply cannot do this. 'Punctuitis' has rendered us incapable, forever stuck in a routine of correction, locked at some stage of development, which cannot progress. Do not expect this book to help you to overcome your impatience with poor punctuation. It is not soothing, but instead offers a pro-active rallying cry to all sticklers.

The fact that Eats, Shoots & Leaves has been a runaway success does not surprise me at all. The book's success is testament to the fact that there are an awful lot of us out there and we are getting angry. Truss has given us a voice and now is the time to use it - get tough, fight the crisis and adopt a zero tolerance to poor punctuation.

Good for you, Lynne!

Sarah Broadhurst's view...

This witty, informative, delightful bestseller on punctuation comes into a neat little paperback with a pull-out sheet of commas for you to be able to correct public notices when you see the need! I think everyone should own a copy.

If you like Lynne Truss you might also like to read books by Arabella Weir and Clare Brown.


Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

The international bestseller – at last in paperback and with a new introduction. A witty, entertaining, impassioned guide to perfect punctuation, for everyone who cares about precise writing.

When social histories come to be written of the first decade of the 21st century, people will note a turning point in 2003 when declining standards of punctuation were reversed. Linguists will record Lynne Truss as the saviour of the semi-colon and the avenging angel of the apostrophe.


‘If Lynne Truss were Roman Catholic I’d nominate her for sainthood’ Frank McCourt

‘This book will stimulate and satisfy. It’s worth its weight in gold.’ Boyd Tonkin, Independent

‘A witty, elegant and passionate book that should be on every writer’s shelf’ Observer

‘Lynne Truss deserves to be piled high with honours …’ John Humphrys

About the Author

Lynne Truss

Lynne Truss is one of Britain’s top comic writers and is the author of the number one bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves. It has sold over three million copies worldwide and won the British Book of the Year award in 2004. She has also written four comic books, Going Loco, Making the Cat Laugh, Tennyson’s Gift and With One Lousy Free Packet of Seed, all available from Profile Books. She is also a regular presenter on Radio 4 and a guest presenter for many other programmes. She lives in Brighton.

Below is a Q & A with this author.

Do you have a favourite punctuation mark?

I do! When I was writing Eats, Shoots & Leaves, I remember saying that this was going to be a new experience for me, because usually (when I was writing plays or novels) I would fall in love with one of the characters. “No chance of that this time,” I said. But in fact I fell in love with the colon. I realised how manly it was. However, I think you have to be a very strange or special person to understand what I mean by that.

What is the most embarrassing mistake you have ever made?

It’s not very good, I’m afraid. I was about 22, and at a party, talking to some parents about whether they should get some injections for their kids, and I said it was probably very important to have them intoxicated. I meant innoculated, you see. I felt like killing myself afterwards.

What is the worst mistake you have ever seen?

I don’t recall. I try to remember only the funny ones. The funniest one I know about is “RESIDENTS REFUSE TO GO IN THE BINS”.

Aside from errors in punctuation and bad manners, do you have any other pet hates?

I don’t actually hate punctuation errors: they make me sad. Meanwhile, the rudeness of the modern world (which was the subject of my last book, Talk to the Hand – it wasn’t just about manners) also makes me more suicidal than angry. However, since you ask, what I do really hate is cyclists on pavements. Or cyclists sailing across pdestrian crossings when the lights are against them. Or cyclists going the wrong way down a one-way street. I would like new laws passed so that citizens would be within their rights to push cyclists off their bikes, if discovered committing any of those outrages.

What is the furthest you have ever gone to correct someone’s punctuation?

Sorry, I don’t go out of my way at all to correct punctuation. Occasionally, if I’m feeling very larky, I will correct a sign and then add my signature underneath – sort-of like the mark of Zorro. But I actually don’t go around correcting people in a serious way, because I know it hurts their feelings.

What are you reading at the moment?

Because I’m just starting to write my first stage play, I’ve been reading a lot of plays; also books about playwriting. Alan Ayckbourn’s The Crafty Art of Playwriting is full of good advice. I’ve just read Lionel Shriver’s Double Fault (a novel about tennis players), and a new American biography of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Last night, I started Julia Briggs’s book about Virginia Woolf, which looks great. Julia Briggs gave a talk about the book at the Charleston Literary Festival in May that was quite the most impressive talk I’ve ever been to.

What was your favourite childhood book?

I loved Pooh best, I think. But Lewis Carroll has had the most lasting effect on my imagination, and I often invoke the Alice books, assuming that everyone knows them off by heart, as I do. When I was about ten, I learned all the poems – “Jabberwocky”, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, “You Are Old, Father William” – and recited them to my bored classmates. I do see Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as one of the most important books ever written.

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Book Info

Publication date

24th October 2005


Lynne Truss

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Profile Books Ltd




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