Wanna be a punctuation vigilante? I’ll bring the Sharpies!


You know how there’s always a book that you mean to read, but you never seem to get around to it? Or you always forget the title when you’re actually at the library and in a position to borrow it? Well, several years ago, I heard Lynne Truss on NPR’s Fresh Air discussing her then-new book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Ever since then, I’ve intended to read the book, but somehow never did until last week.
If there ever was a perfect candidate to read this book, it’s me. I am what Ms. Truss calls, “a stickler.” When I find a typo in a book, I take a pencil to it. (Oh, how delightful it is when I discover in a library book that a fellow stickler has already repaired the error ahead of me!) If I pass a shop with an error in its sign, it takes all my self-discipline not to run home for a Sharpie and start to copyedit in permanent ink. And don’t even ask about menus. (Though I usually cut the restaurant slack if it’s run by non-native speakers of English. I’m sure they punctuate English better than I can punctuate Farsi or Chinese.)
I’ve gotten slightly better in recent years, probably because I no longer have the energy after chasing toddlers all day and cooking three dinners for six people (don’t ask). As soon as I get all my kids off to school and out of diapers (hopefully, not in that order), I’ll probably get that itchy stickler finger again.
When I explained the topic of the book to my darling husband, he smiled knowingly. “Yes, that’s the perfect book for you.”
What’s amazing about Eats, Shoots and Leaves is that it’s fun to read. Even non-sticklers will appreciate Truss’s explanation of the vagaries of English punctuation and the pleasures in getting it just so. Some of the best moments are when Truss laughs at her own stickler tendencies, which is good, because otherwise, the stickler is in damage of going off the deep end entirely.
I also felt a surge of pleasure in being American, as Americans punctuate a little more consistently than the English.
I highly recommend this book for all writers, teachers, and sticklers. Well, unless you got around to reading the book before me.

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