Breaking news: MRP is no longer the only word nerd on the planet that hasn’t read Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
In a nutshell, here’s my review: OMG! Right on! Seriously?! and back to OMG!
Okay, here’s the deal. On the one hand, Truss seems totally reasonable:
The descriptive sort of linguist tends to observe change in the language, note it, analyze it, and manage not to wake up screaming every night. . . . Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, severely prescriptive grammarians would argue that, since they were taught at school in 1943 that you must never start a sentence with “And” or “But,” the modern world is benighted by ignorance and folly, and most of modern literature should be burned.
Somewhere between these staunch positions is where I want us to end up: staunch because we understand the advantages of being staunch; flexible because we understand the rational and historical necessity to be flexible.
And then on the other hand, she seems like a stark raving punctuation banshee who needs a time out from her red pen:
No matter that you have a PhD and have read all of Henry James twice. If you still persist in writing, “Good food at it’s best,” you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot, and buried in an unmarked grave.
It’s a fairly quick, interesting, and informative read, well-written and with a dry sense of humor I could appreciate. But when I got to the bits where the comma crazy let loose, I found myself wanting to grab Truss and say, “You must chill!” No wonder people seem to find word nerds so scary sometimes.
So if you’re now the last word nerd on the planet to have read Eats, Shoots and Leaves, have a go at it. You’ll learn a lot about punctuation. But “sticklers unite”? Eh, not so much.