Eats, Shoots and Leaves

It’s a relief to know that there are others out there. For a long time I thought I was alone; alone in a cold and unpunctuated world. You can imagine my delight and relief at finding other people who care about punctuation as much as I do, and are willing to go to great lengths to keep the standards up.

This book explains the use and history of punctuation. It’s intended to be more approachable than your average straight-forward punctuation guide. It covers the obvious stuff and sheds some light on the less well-known uses and compares the rules given in other punctuation guides.1 Not having covered much grammar and punctuation in English, I found it interesting; the difference between a colon and a semicolon was most informative.

Resistance was obviously useless against a family that could invent italics.

Equally as fascinating is the history of punctuation and the speculation on the future. Most punctuation didn’t exist until the printing press was invented in the 15th century and it seems to be having a hard time crossing over to the internet. Maybe it’s the lack of editors on the net or the lack of a proper English education these days. The only place I’ve found on the net containing some decent punctuation was while reading reviews for this book.

The part I liked most about the book is, while it gives plenty of examples, the text itself is one big example about how to use punctuation. It explains punctuation while using it. This kind of thing amuses me.3 I liked the comparison between good manners and punctuation too: they’re both invisible when used properly.

Many people couldn’t punctuate their way out of a paper bag.

As I suspected, the apostrophe is the main problem people have with punctuation. While the Apostrophe Protection Society is a nice attempt to spread the light, this book suggests a more aggressive campaign is needed. We should form a militant wing who hunt down abusers and misusers of punctuation. We are encouraged to “embrace your inner stickler” and join the minority of people who will point out mistakes on signs, on posters, in titles, in newspapers, in letters, in emails and on billboards. Recommended equipment includes big red markers to make corrections with. All we need is a leader to unite us and lead us to victory over ignorance. In Lynne Truss, I believe we have such a leader. Sticklers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.

  1. Made you look, Tom. This isn’t a real footnote. It’s just here to interrupt your reading.
  2. One of the funniest things I ever heard.
  3. Then again, custard amuses me. Maybe there’s something wrong with me.
  4. The second footnote isn’t in the review. It’s just to make Tom look through the article again to find what it is referring to.
8 comments posted — most recent by Tom on 23/10/04