Eats, shoots and leaves
by Lynne Truss
Lynne Truss begins by thanking all the writers, editors and hundreds of members of the public who responded to articles in The Daily Telegraph, The Author and Writers' News and Truss writes that it was good to know that she was not alone in her zero tolerance to punctuation. There are a lot of them out there. Or should I say us? This book has made me realise that there are others just like me and that I too, am a stickler and have 'Punctuitis' (as I like to call it), albeit quite mildly.
This is the whole point of the book. Either you get upset about punctuation or you don't. My entire family see my 'Punctuitis' as a sad, lonely sort of condition, brought on entirely by oneself and the hallmark of a petty, small minded and pedantic sort of person. That used to make me feel a bit sad. It's true, I'm not altogether happy that I am the sort of person who feels faint at greengrocers' signs and is moved to take a paintbrush to billboard hoardings and correct the wretchedly mis-punctuated film Two Weeks Notice. Why is there no apostrophe? If it were one week, then surely the missing item would have been spotted.
Truss observes; "Either this will ring bells for you, or it won't." The rung bells are the important matters of redundant or missing apostrophes, meaningless commas and sprinklings of dots and dashes like an awful rash. In this world of plummeting standards the stickler is continually tormented. "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." When words such as phenomena, media and cherubim are treated as singular, I feel rage building up inside.
Truss offers some very practical advice for those suffering from more extreme forms of 'Punctuitis', such as; if you take hyphens seriously you will surely run mad and it's best to remember them only to avoid serious cases of letter collision. Also, never forget that a comma may become a life or death matter and the "yob's comma" is a well-known and well-documented affliction which appears to be spreading and may achieve pandemic status, if aggressive treatment is not applied.
This book certainly did ring bells for me and I was transfixed, muttering agreement, sharing the small shocks and generally behaving very strangely from page one. My rational side knows that there are more important things in life and that I should observe the errors, maybe privately correct them and then just get over it. Alas, sticklers simply cannot do this. 'Punctuitis' has rendered us incapable, forever stuck in a routine of correction, locked at some stage of development, which cannot progress. Do not expect this book to help you to overcome your impatience with poor punctuation. It is not soothing, but instead offers a pro-active rallying cry to all sticklers.
The fact that Eats, Shoots & Leaves has been a runaway success does not surprise me at all. The book's success is testament to the fact that there are an awful lot of us out there and we are getting angry. Truss has given us a voice and now is the time to use it - get tough, fight the crisis and adopt a zero tolerance to poor punctuation.
Good for you, Lynne!