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Eats, Shoots & Leaves

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Since y’all got into a debate about Woe Is I… Am I? I figured this would be a good time to post the other grammar book review.

I’m obviously a stickler for grammar and enjoy finding grammatical errors, typos, and other funny goofs with the English language as evidenced in the Gotchas (new design coming… well, the new design is up, but haven’t had time to post entries.) and the series I’ve written for Webreference eons ago. Imagine my excitement when hearing about this runaway bestseller in which the author takes a “zero tolerance approach to punctuation.”

It wasn’t in America very long when it quickly reached the coveted bestseller lists, and this despite retaining its British syntax. In reading the introduction, I was pleased to find the publisher had decided not to change the UK spellings, phrases, and even punctuation rules in the American version of the book. Hurrah! It would have been a nice touch to add a note regarding the differences in the rules of American and British grammar.

A couple of problems do come with leaving the British intact, however. A sign mentioned in the book is racist in American English and should have been omitted. Also present is the word “fag,” harmless in Britain, but a prejudicial term in the US. Not everyone realizes this.

Writing this review is stressful knowing the punctuation is going to be checked with a magnifying glass, while I remain true to what I have been taught. Here’s an example of where we disagree:

Rule eight in using apostrophe to indicate the plural of words such as do, don’t, but, and and. In reviewing my entire library of grammar-related books, a majority indicate the apostrophe is not needed when the context is clear. Thus, use dos, don’ts, buts, ands, Bs, CDs, and so on. Use the apostrophe when minding your p’s and q’s and trying to remember to cross those t’s.

Truss clearly explains the purpose of ellipses and [sic], two items that have confused writers and readers. Since this book has given me a renewed and refreshed outlook into punctuation, I’m on the lookout for more gotchas.

However, I was disappointed when I finished the book. It started off strong, but then dragged before I reached the middle pages. The book was overhyped. There were highlights in the book that I enjoyed, so all was not lost.

Those hemming and hawing at this review and the thought of saving punctuation won’t want to come within ten feet of this book.

Someone asked me if this would make a good book for learning the grammar rules. No, not this one. This is more for people who know the rules and need a laugh. It’s the ‘fiction’ of grammar more than a how-to.

Meryl prefers to write “theater” the British way… “theatre.”

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About Meryl K Evans

Meryl K. Evans, Content Maven, is the author of "Brilliant Outlook Pocketbook" and the co-author of "Adapting to Web Standards: CSS and Ajax for Big Sites." She has written and edited for a bunch of places online and off. A native Texan, she lives a heartbeat north of Dallas in Plano, Texas with her husband and three kiddos.
  • Also present is the word “fag,” harmless in Britain, but a prejudicial term in the US.

    No kidding! I couldn’t believe it, my first day in the UK, when one of the guys in my department announced he was taking a break to “suck on a fag.”