Eats, Shoots & Leaves | A Criticism

Eats, Shoots & Leaves | A book you should avoid at all costs.

Directly above is an image of the front of a book by author Lynne Truss. It is a book that should not be read and a publication that should be removed from the shelves of libraries immediately, it’s publication suspended indefinitely and its existing issues burned at once.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss published in April of 2006 is probably the most awful book I’ve ever read. The book’s content is atrocious. Conclusively, there are about 20 or so pages of useful information of the obvious and basic type of content that can be located in any children’s fundamental grammar book. The rest of the publication is full of forced comedic jokes, mostly if not entirely related to grammar, dull historical references pertaining to the beginning of grammar and shallow elicitations of famous authors.

What I thought was fantastic, however, was an article I read by The New Yorker that almost seemed delighted in pointing out all the errors within Truss’s book. Regardless, punctuation errors in a punctuation book should be reason enough to pull the publication off the shelves. The following is a small excerpt from the article:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves” is really a “decline of print culture” book disguised as a style manual (poorly disguised). Truss has got things mixed up because she has confused two aspects of writing: the technological and the aesthetic. The first punctuation mistake appears in the dedication, where a nonrestrictive clause is not preceded by a comma. It is a wild ride downhill from there.

As was just strongly opinionated by author, editor and contributing writer of The New Yorker, Louis Menand, Truss’s book is essentially a badly disguised instruction manual for grammar. Truss admits she isn’t a grammarian yet drags up information about things like the history of the comma or semicolon.

As to the author’s objective in writing this book, I believe she wants to communicate common errors found throughout the English language and attempt to explain how they should be correctly used while providing historical context as to how grammar and punctuation was once implemented and how it is used now. There are several reasons why this message was not effectively communicated to me.

Firstly, it appears as though Truss does not wish to interpret the liberal message that language is always evolving and seems to be an author who will remain affirmed in her peculiar grammar/punctuation rules she claims to know, yet chooses to break at the same time. Secondly, there’s an issue with the books translation. The publisher’s at Gotham Books failed to make any alterations for the Americanized version of the publication, an error that makes the book virtually useless to American readers. Thirdly, her pretentious, unamusing attempts at humor surrounding grammar and punctuation were often uncomfortable and awkward and in combination with her dull references to the historical foundations of the English structure I frequently lost sight of the messages she attempted to communicate.

Because this book was not properly translated into an American version in addition to every other reason I’ve described above, I do not believe this novel to be exceptionally pertinent to copyediting in the United States and the relevance it holds to a student of copyediting I would rate at zero.

Concerning the assessment of how well edited this book is, I would have to admit that based on the content I’ve read and the research I’ve done, it is a book that should be immediately removed from the shelves of every library and the sales of which should be discontinued immediately. Even in the book Truss admitted that her copy editors were continually removing the commas that she tends to place before conjunctions, along with a number of other problematic issues.

In conclusion I can only assume that somewhere after reading this book, men are mashing their teeth, women are crying and children are screaming. I’d like to begin a petition to remove this book from its perspective shelves immediately but unfortunately I am far too busy to do so. Having surprised myself at finishing this book in its entirety, I’ve become one step closer to recognizing a good author from a bad one. Decisively, however, I am affirmed that after writing this review I will begin a Facbeook hate group created at the expense of this nonsensical collage.


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