I’m about to sound like a real nerd when I reveal the book that makes me laugh. Even though Eats, Shoots and Leaves is about punctuation, the manner of writing cracks me up. It’s brilliantly written in that it presents common punctuational blunders and their proper uses with a dash of humor.
Lynn Truss, the author, begins with a story followed by a warning.
Either this rings a bell for you, or it won’t. A printed banner has appeared on the concourse of a petrol station near to where I live. “Come inside,” it says, “for CD’s, VIDEO’s, DVD’s, and BOOK’s.”
If this satanic sprinkling of redundant apostrophes causes no little gasp of horror or quickening of the pulse, you should probably put down this book at once.
The book continues in this witty manner to discuss apostrophes, commas, dashes, colons, periods, question marks, quotation marks, and other punctuation marks. She debates about the proper uses of these marks and what they mean when they’re used. She even delves into the Oxford Comma debate!
Even the title is an example of a punctuation confusion. The back cover tells that story.
A panda walks into a cafe. 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, “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.”
The punctuation in this manual implies that the panda eats his meal, shoots something, and leaves. (Of course, as debated in Truss’s book, I think there should be another comma after “shoots”, but that’s for a different conversation.) What the manual really meant to say was that the panda “eats shoots and leaves” as in bamboo shoots and tree leaves. Instead, this comical picture is created of a panda with a gun.
This book is good for English-minded people, such as teachers, students, majors, or anyone that speaks English. It won’t remind you of the boring English grammar workbooks we’ve all endured, but it will teach you a few tricks of the trade concerning punctuation. We’d all be better off if everyone understood punctuation.