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"Eats, Shoots and Leaves"

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Has anyone read this book? It is subtitled "The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation" and is (or recently was) the British #1 bestseller.

I've just started it. It is informative, witty, and cranky all rolled up into one. The stickler in me is feeling well nourished right now.

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A brilliant book! At my mother's request, I bought it for her for Christmas. Unfortunately it got rather over-read before I packed it, so I had to buy a second copy!

It reminded me of the time when an office circular was put out stating "There will shortly be a review of government departments under the control of Sir Derek Rayner", which I read to mean that the powers that be did not trust the honmourable peer, but that wasn't quite the case.


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A wonderful book and very useful. People don't seem to understand the use of the single quotation mark for possessive and plural possessive and it can be very distracting.

One reason may be that many people who in the past did not write do now--the internet, with its message boards, newsgroups and other text based interactive systems has created a very "conversational" type of writing that is often at odds with the more formal prose in printed work. Many people seem to write the way they talk so that homonyms abound--"there" and "their" used almost interchangably and the same with "its" and "it's" for example.

Well written and fun to read.

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In this bookish part of the world, it sold out days after it got into stores. I'm reading it after I finish my next deadline.

I do think that part of the current difficulty lies in the way that many people write -- either in prescribed situations (reports, forms, anything with a house style or technical glossary) or in the casual form we see on the net. I do think, though, (and here's where the Pollyanna comes out) that this new emphasis on written communication is a positive thing, and that as more people write more often, some of these issues will be resolved.

And in the meantime, the mistakes can be very amusing!

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I apologize for having to dissent, but I did read this -- it doesn't take long -- and while some of it was very funny I thought it was a trifle -- well, obvious. Shooting fish in a barrel, in a way. Of course, if people find it instructive, then it can only do good.

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Thanks for the reminder. I put this on my list but lost the list. Now I definitely will get it. I remember when punctuation was taught as very S-E-R-I-O-U-S business, and I especially loved possessives.

P.S., I confess that when I read the title of this topic I thought it had to to with vegetarianism (confusing vagansmom with vegansmom). So I'm glad I looked forward.

I've just started it. It is informative,  witty, and cranky all rolled up into one. The stickler in me is feeling well nourished right now.

"Witty and cranky" -- my favorite British combination. I am told this describes me, too, except for the witty part.

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Thanks for mentioning that New Yorker article, anthony_NYC. I had forgotten about it. Here is Menand’s review, for those who are curious:


Much of what Menand says is on target. In defense of Truss, I’d point out that many of his strictures are less matters of correctness than taste. It’s legitimate to fool around with your commas for the sake of emphasis and effect as long as you know what you’re doing. (I tend to overuse commas myself, and so I felt defensive on Truss’ behalf. :).)

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Anthony and Dirac -- thanks for pointing to the Louis Menand review from the New Yorker. I think he quibbles. A good deal of the practices he disagree with seem to relate to style (as in the various "style books" that major publications have) and not strictly to rules of punctuation. For instance: how to write "the 1980s."

As to his charge of inconsistency, written language often aspires to "read" as it might sound when spoken. Menand mentions "of course." My use of "of course," with or without before-and-after commas, depends on how I would actually say the sentence in a conversation. I think this increasingly common in good writing.

Less acceptable might be the increase in exclamation points, italicizing for stress, etc. I love indulging in them in relatively ephemeral forums like Ballet Talk, but would not dream of doing so in more formal writing. So the marketplace for writing is a factor, too.

As for parentheses (you know: the ()'s) -- I love them (personal indulgence).

Truswell is helpful in separating British and American practice. Her discussion of the Chekhov story, "The Exclamation Mark", is worth the price of admission.

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