Anxious about the apostrophe? Confused by the comma? Stumped by the semicolon? Join Lynne Truss on a hilarious tour through the rules of punctuation that is sure to sort the dashes from the hyphens.

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Anxious about the apostrophe? Confused by the comma? Stumped by the semicolon? Join Lynne Truss on a hilarious tour through the rules of punctuation that is sure to sort the dashes from the hyphens. We all had the basic rules of punctuation drilled into us at school, but punctuation pedants have good reason to suspect they never sank in. It is not only the rules of punctuation that have come under attack but also a sense of why they matter.

Not because I particularly wanted to bare my soul in public, but because her death changed my life and created the conditions for the book to be written. So I decided to stay at home and concentrate on my radio career. I loved the medium of radio, and I had commissions already waiting to be done. For the next three years, therefore, I wrote plays and scripts, gave talks and presented features — all of which led me to an even greater sense of professional fulfilment, but also, unfortunately, to the brink of financial ruin.

The more work I got from radio, the worse off I appeared to be. Then there was the more general influence of radio on the book, in that I wanted it to have all the Reithian values of informing, educating and entertaining.

But finally it also came about — a small book, for a small publisher, for a small advance — because I wanted to be published again, but only in a very controlled and limited way. Still fragile, all I wanted to do was dip a toe in the water. Of course, I knew how it would appear to other people. It turned out that punctuation was the perfect subject for a book, because I could describe it, trace its origins, give the rules in an abbreviated and idiosyncratic way , and also mount a staunch defence of it.

I came up with the whole proposal for the book including the title and the idea for the panda up a ladder on the cover in a single afternoon, when I was a bit rushed doing other things. I ought to advise other authors never to follow my example, because you run the danger of spending your whole life telling the same joke, over and over.

However, the astonishing truth is that I still find the panda joke quite funny, even after telling it two hundred thousand times. Share on. Current Slide Second slide details. Third slide details. Related Titles Punctuation. Published August Punctuation. Subscribe to the Newsletter. Cookies We use only strictly necessary cookies on our website.

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Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Sep 25, 69 Minutes Buy. She proclaims, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. Using examples from literature, history, neighborhood signage, and her own imagination, Truss shows how meaning is shaped by commas and apostrophes, and the hilarious consequences of punctuation gone awry. We all know the basics of punctuation. Or do we?


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It is a wild ride downhill from there. About half the semicolons in the rest of the book are either unnecessary or ungrammatical, and the comma is deployed as the mood strikes. We are informed that when a sentence ends with a quotation American usage always places the terminal punctuation inside the quotation marks, which is not so. Then, there is the translation problem. For some reason, the folks at Gotham Books elected not to make any changes for the American edition, a typesetting convenience that makes the book virtually useless for American readers. The supreme peculiarity of this peculiar publishing phenomenon is that the British are less rigid about punctuation and related matters, such as footnote and bibliographic form, than Americans are.


Death to the otiose comma

In the book, published in , Truss bemoans the state of punctuation in the United Kingdom and the United States and describes how rules are being relaxed in today's society. Her goal is to remind readers of the importance of punctuation in the English language by mixing humour and instruction. Truss dedicates the book "to the memory of the striking Bolshevik printers of St. Petersburg who, in , demanded to be paid the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby directly precipitated the first Russian Revolution "; she added this dedication as an afterthought after finding the factoid in a speech from a librarian.

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