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&Quot;Eat Shoots &Amp; Leaves&Quot;

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Autor:  anton  14 March 2011
Tags:  Shoots,  Leaves
Words: 643   |   Pages: 3
Views: 591

“Eats Shoots & Leaves,” by Lynne Truss, is a small book containing both humor and the rules of English punctuation. The title of this book comes from a joke about a wildlife manual with poor punctuation that said a giant panda "eats, shoots & leaves," which is a verb, verb, and verb. The way it should have been written is "eats shoots and leaves," which is a verb, noun, and noun. The different punctuation changes the meaning of the phrase.

Truss divides the book into a several chapters to emphasize individual punctuations marks, starting with the "tractable apostrophe." The apostrophe was first put into use by the English language in the 16th century. The apostrophe indicates a possessive in a singular noun, as in “The boy’s hat.” It also indicates time or quantity for example, “In one weeks time.” Apostrophes can indicate the omission of both figures in dates and letters. An apostrophe is used for strange, non-standard English, and plurals in letters and words. Truss continues on to give examples of “plain illiteracy” and other examples of when the apostrophe is more difficult to use.

In the following chapter entitled “That’ll Do, Comma,” Truss explains when the comma is mostly used. The comma is best used to illuminate the grammar of a sentence or to emphasize literary qualities such as rhythm, direction, pitch, tone and flow. Truss humorously states, “This is why grown men have knock-down fights over the comma in editorial offices: because these two roles of punctuation sometimes collide head-on.” She also continues on with more history of the comma. Truss illustrates the difference with commas for lists, joining, gaps, direct speech, interjections and pairs.

In the chapter, “Airs and Graces” Truss begins with a story of her experience with an American pen-pal. The girl wrote her a carefree letter and Truss wrote back in a very pretentious tone, needless to say the girl never wrote back. Truss writes, “…colons and semicolons – well they are in a different league, my dear! They give such a lift!” She points out the many excuses people make to avoid using the colon and semicolon and finds its lack of use unfortunate. Truss continues on with several examples of proper use for both the colon and semicolon.

In the chapter “Cutting a Dash,” Truss mocks the American use of the exclamation point. Truss writes, “Everyone knows the exclamation mark – or exclamation point, as it is known in America. It comes at the end of a sentence…Here’s one! And here’s another!” The exclamation point is mainly used for involuntary ejaculations, to salute or invoke, to exclaim or admire, for drama, or to make a sentence more emphatic.

According to Truss, the hyphen is a little used punctuation mark. Truss gives several straightforward examples of appropriate use for the hyphen. An example would be to use a hyphen when certain words are to be spelled out: “K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M.”

In the final chapter Truss explains her thoughts one last time, showing several disconnected examples to defend her thoughts. She writes, “…it is a matter for despair to see punctuation chucked out by people who don’t know the difference between who and whose, and whose bloody “grammar checker” can’t tell the difference either.” Truss also argues that the use of e-mail has ruined the quality of people’s punctuation.

Truss tells many jokes throughout her book and also includes detailed information on punctuation history. According to the author punctuation is the product of the age of printing. Commas, semicolons and other punctuation marks were developed during the era of hand-copied manuscripts; however, a Venetian printer Aldus Manutius was the first to create unity among punctuation practices.

Truss teaches that punctuation styles have changed over the last 500 years, but the comma, period, semicolon have changed at a much slower pace. Overall, Truss has made the dry subject of punctuation successfully entertaining and educational.

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