Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a humorous “zero tolerance guide” to punctuation, and every writer (or blogger) should have a copy. In fact I’m not sure how I survived for so long without it.
I recently finished a proofreading course and this guide, along with the comprehensive Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, was never far from reach. But even when not in need of punctuation advice, Eats, Shoots & Leaves is very readable (and especially enjoyable with homemade cookies and a cuppa, as pictured).
Truss admits that she is a stickler for punctuation. Her horror at seeing errors may seem excessive to most people, but it clearly comes from a love of language. Here she is writing about punctuation in the introduction, “…what happens when it isn’t used? Well, if punctuation is the stitching of language, language comes apart, obviously, and all the buttons fall off.” Can’t you just imagine all the letters in a sentence popping off the page one by one, like buttons off a badly sewn shirt?
The writing is tongue-in-cheek and the content is just the right balance between interesting historical facts and funny examples of misused punctuation. One of my favourites is “Dicks in tray” which, of course, should be “Dick’s in tray”. But what keeps bringing me back to Eats, Shoots & Leaves is the clear instructions. I recommend having some sticky labels handy to bookmark relevant pages if there are certain rules you tend to slip up on.
What have I learnt since reading this book? That school (and my TEFL course) did not teach me how to use colons and semicolons properly!
Need to brush up on your punctuation? Buy the book by clicking on the link below!