Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Eats, Shoots, & Leaves, Lynne Truss

Title: Eats, Shoots, & Leaves
Author: Lynne Truss
Rating: Good

I need to be a bit careful reviewing this book. My text is always full of errors. No matter how hard I try, for example, I cannot manage to distinguish between "it's" and "its" without actually engaging the brain for several seconds on the topic. It should be simple, and it is in the case of "their", "there", and "they're", but "it's" and "its" are messed up deep in my reptilian brain.

This is a book in which Lynne Truss complains (rightly so, mostly) about the state of punctuation in our language. The American release of the book contains (essentially) the British content, so some things she does and says aren't "right" for us yanks. But that doesn't detract from the essential correctness of the content, nor the charm of her writing.

Personally, I didn't learn much that surprised me in this little volume. I did enjoy the time reading it, and it was nice to see that my tendency to put terminal punctuation outside of quotes at times is valid in the Queen's English, even if it isn't valid here. (Someone else commented on this in an earlier post as well. I will continue the habit as well.)

This isn't really a language reference book. Thus if you want to look up some of the more obscure rules for the use of the comma you'd be better off with a true style guide, rather than this book.

In short: recommended, but probably a library trip, rather than a bookstore trip, as you'll probably only read it once.

PS: Can someone actually explain the apostrophe in this phrase:
two weeks' notice
That seems entirely wrong to me, but Truss goes on and on about it. (It's a movie title - without the apostrophe - and even the photo on the back cover shows her adding an apostrophe to a movie poster; guerilla style.) To me, the phrase "that will take two weeks to do" needs no apostrophe, so why would "I'm giving my two weeks notice now" need one? Is this perhaps a British English thing, or am I missing something? Alas, Truss's text (I believe that 's is correct there) doesn't explain this issue in a way I could understand.