Sunday, 30 December 2012

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation! by Lynne Truss (4/5)

The back says: A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

So punctuation really does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death.

I say: I was ecstatic when I found this in a used book store; not because I had been specifically looking for it, but because I love bad word puns, and that one in the synopsis seriously made me chuckle.

Ok, I guffawed.

There isn’t really that much to say about this, other than I learned that my excessive usage of commas is probably a sign of me having been too influenced by Wordsworth and that Emily Dickinson’s dashes all make sense (ha, poetry lecturer). I also learned a lot about who and where punctuation came from (which I’ve conveniently forgotten now) and that I am not the only one who gets really annoyed by the greengrocer’s dozen,” aka people who don’t know how to use apostrophes correctly.

That seriously annoys me.

Another thing that was truly helpful was where the punctuation goes when using quotation marks; the opposite of how the swedes do it, just to add more confusion in my life. I used to know this when I was studying in English, but since I started writing essays in Swedish, it’s all a blur.

Oh, and can I whine about people who don’t know when or how to use their, they’re or there?


Well, ok then.

That’s fine, since Truss does it a lot better than I do – and with a lot more humour. Seriously, even if you don’t like or care about grammar, this book is so funny and witty that you’ll find yourself laughing and learning at the same time. Or, well actually, it’s probably only funny and witty if you care about grammar; otherwise you might just get annoyed and wonder why anyone should care.

Or, even worse, you might not understand anything at all.

I genuinely wish I could give a copy of this to everyone I know, but, considering that nobody but me cares about grammar, it’ll be a waste of time.

At least I got all my commas validated, so there!


  1. I've seen this book at a local bookstore and have wondered what it was like. Did you know there is also a desk box calendar of the same title, with its (did I do that right?) origins from this book?

    One of my pet peeves is the misuse of their, they're and there! That one really gets me!

    Thanks for sharing this review.

    1. I had no idea there was a desk box calendar - I'll have to check that out, thanks!

      Your "its" is correct, and I'm glad someone shares the annoyance of they're, their and there. But also your and you're. How hard can it really be?