This new book, subtitled “The Zero-Tolerance Approach to Punctuation,” has become an instant best-seller in England. Its author is Lynne Truss, a London theater critic and columnist whose zeal for proper punctuation is tempered by a wry sense of humor.
The title derives from one of the book’s numerous jokes. A panda goes into a bar, orders a sandwich, fires a gun and heads for the door. Why did he do that? The barman calls after him. The panda tosses him a badly punctuated wildlife manual. “I’m a panda,” he says. “Look me up.” The barman finds the relevant page, which says, “Panda. Large black-and-white, bearlike mammal native of China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”
Truss calls semicolons and colons “old-fashioned, middle-class, and dangerously addictive,” and says exclamation points are “like laughing at your own jokes.” Ouch! I use far too many of these, and will henceforth try to cease and desist whenever possible.
She also notes that “Gertrude Stein called the comma servile and refused to have anything to do with it.” Memo, to self: fewer commas, please!
You can order the book from amazon.uk now, or wait ’til next year when it’s published in the U.S.: Truss has received a $110,000 advance! Oops, there I go again!