Eats, shoots & leaves by lynne truss


Eats, Shoots & Leaves

The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

LYNNE TRUSS

To the memory of the striking Bolshevik printers of St Petersburg who, in 1905, demanded to be paid the
Same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby directly precipitated the first Russian
Revolution

Contents
Acknowledgements
Introduction – The Seventh Sense
The Tractable Apostrophe
That’ll Do, Comma
Airs and Graces
Cutting a Dash
A Little Used Punctuation Mark
Merely Conventional Signs
Bibliography

Acknowledgements
Thanks are due to the many writers on punctuation who did all the hard work of formulating the clear rules
I have doubtless muddied in this book. G. V. Carey’s Mind the Stop (1939) and Eric Partridge’s You Have
A Point There (1953) are acknowledged classics; modern writers such as David Crystal, Loreto Todd,
Graham King, KeithWaterhouse, Tim Austin, Kingsley Amis, Philip Howard, Nicholson Baker, William
Hartston and R. L. Trask were all inspirational. Special thanks go to Cathy Stewart, Anne Baker and
Gillian Forrester; also to Penny Vine, who set me off on this journey in the first place. Nigel Hall told me
The panda joke; Michael Handelzalts told me about the question mark in Hebrew; and Adam Beeson told
Me where to find the dash on my keyboard. Learned copy-editors have attempted to sort out my commas
And save me from embarrassment. I thank them very much. Where faults obstinately remain, they are
Mine alone. Finally, I would like to thank Andrew Franklin for his encouraging involvement along the way,
And the hundreds of readers who generously responded to articles in The Daily Telegraph, The Author
And Writers’ News. It was very good to know that I was not alone.

Introduction –
The Seventh Sense
Either this will ring bells 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. By all means congratulate yourself that you are
Not a pedant or even a stickler; that you are

happily equipped to live in a world of plummeting punctuation
Standards; but just don’t bother to go any further. For any true stickler, you see, the sight of the plural
Word “Book’s” with an apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages
Of bereavement, though greatly accelerated. First there is shock. Within seconds, shock gives way to
Disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger. Finally (and this is where the analogy breaks down), anger
Gives way to a righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage with the aid of a permanent marker.
It’s tough being a stickler for punctuation these days. One almost dare not get up in the mornings. True,
One occasionally hears a marvellous punctuation-fan joke about a panda who “eats, shoots and leaves”,
But in general the stickler’s exquisite sensibilities are assaulted from all sides, causing feelings of panic
And isolation. A sign at a health club will announce, “I’ts party time, on Saturday 24th May we are have a
Disco/party night for free, it will be a ticket only evening.” Advertisements offer decorative services to
“wall’s – ceiling’s – door’s ect”. Meanwhile a newspaper placard announces “FAN’S FURY AT STADIUM
INQUIRY”, which sounds quite interesting until you look inside the paper and discover that the story



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Eats, shoots & leaves by lynne truss