Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation" by Lynne Truss

In reading this book, I expected to be able to get a few good laughs, occasionally smile and nod in agreement with Truss when she finds herself aghast at general punctuation stupidity, and reinforce my already stellar skills. Instead I think I have come away even more confused.

So frequently Truss seems to say that, though each punctuation mark can be correctly used in many different ways, often some of those ways are acceptable to one group of people but rejected by another; some uses were common centuries ago, but no longer apply; and other questionable uses that were once frowned upon are now well-received (or will be soon). It seemed that Truss was promoting the idea that, as long as you are consistent and not an idiot, you can use punctuation however you see fit. Of course, since there is no Punctuation Police Force, I guess in theory this is true; but it doesn't seem like the stance of a true "stickler". After reading Truss's book, the conclusion I have reached is that the only remedy for the punctuation situation is to buy a book that is a good style guide (not this one!) and follow it.

As for giggles, this book was quite humorous, though certainly not a laugh riot. In fact, it made me think of those comedies where, after watching the entire movie, you realize that you'd already seen all the funny parts the first time you watched the preview. The title of this book (with the accompanying explanation on the back) was the funniest part.

I must also add that I can't understand why using the word "enormity" is a problem when referring to the 9/11 tragedy. Truss insists that "magnitude" is the correct descriptive. I even looked both words up in the dictionary and "enormity" seems to fit just right. "Enormity" refers to a grave offense against order, right or decency; a state of being monstrous, especially great wickedness; or huge. "Enormity," to me, has more negative connotations than "magnitude," (which, while conveying size and importance, does not encompass the outrage of 9/11 like the word "enormity" does). I think either word could be used to describe the situation of 9/11, but I disagree with Truss's claim that "enormity" is incorrect.

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