Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eats, Shoots & Leaves - A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

If you're like me you ask yourself this question once a decade, if at all: does punctuation really matter? We, who live in a world of “Netspeak” and emoticons (both excuses for not putting the right words in the right places), do we think the age of the appropriately placed semicolon, dash or parenthesis is dead?

I personally murder the semicolon on a daily basis it seems. I tire of pursing my lips in thought at the end of every sentence I write (or send as it were), wondering if I should use that uppity mixture of comma and full stop, or slice off its bottom (and more lovely) half, until I start drooling uncontrollably and mumble gibberish to myself. Who really cares after all? Ah, and see ¬– therein lies the problem: someone always cares.

With the advent of the internet and millions of us fancying ourselves “writers” when really we are “senders”, there are – for the good of those with stock in the makers of red and blue pens; I’d hate for them to suffer – some still left in the world, hiding in corners waiting to pounce on the first ill-used word; shouting with their fists in the air, “Sticklers unite!”

Lynne Truss is one of those standing in the picket lines, with her blue pencil in hand of course, editing everyone’s protest signs and encouraging all to read her book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a book about a misplaced comma and a panda with a gun....ahem. Truss is a woman on a mission; a personal journey that nimbly gyrates from the grocer, and the newspaper;

to the sign on the building,

















and the Hollywood marquee.












This woman is extremely anal (and seriously frowning in this lovely pic), perhaps even bordering on obsessive- compulsive, but I don’t think she cares. For her punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language: they tell us to slow down, notice this, take a detour, and stop. But did I learn something, which after all, is probably her point, regardless of her nit pickiness. I would say, yes I did.

Mainly, it was this: in a lot of cases, it’s a matter of personal taste. If it burns deep within your bosom to place a semicolon after a sentence, then by all means – do it! Want to put a comma after the word and? Apparently it depends on which country you’re from. What? So, besides the fact that someone at the New Yorker doesn’t find her book very accurate, I thought it very witty and fun, and most of it made sense. Do I now feel more paranoid about those pesky dots and dashes? Not really, but just in case I’ll continue to avoid the caffeine beverages and try to remember that writing a sentence is a bit like adding paint to a blank canvas. Each is unique and subject to personal taste. Whoopety-do. 4 stars

6 comments:

Amanda said...

I'm real picky about grammar, but terrible at spelling. This might be fun to read...

Lula O said...

It was funny. She's very sarcastic and sooo English. She goes over a lot of the history of punctuation as well. I thought that was interesting too.

Stephanie said...

I love that second picture...if I had pictured Truss scowling at me like that while I read this book, I think I would have had to take it a lot more seriously!

Lula O said...

She does look like a big meanie doesn't she. Probably sick of holding that stupid comma.

TheBlackSheep said...

I think I might have to read that. Writing more means I've become paranoid about my spelling and grammer (neither of which is helped by most of my life being conducted in German) and I'm conviced that I slaughter the English language on a daily basis, sometimes on purpose, but more often not. I wonder if she'd help cure me of that or make it worse.

Lula O said...

I did learn alot, especially the different norms for Europe and the United States. I had no idea of all the alternating rules. It really is an art form after all.