Sunday, June 19, 2011
Eats, Shoots, and Leaves
I love English. I love grammar. Even when I get it wrong (dangle a particple, don't use an antecedent, run-on sentence), I love learning about the nuts and bolts of English. If you attended a Catholic school in the 1950s and '60s as I did, then you know how to diagram a sentence, that is, breaking a sentence down into its component parts so that you know how a sentence goes together. It was boring, but necessary, and it has served me well.
I am a sucker for buying books about the English language. As a result, I know about the great vowel shift and inkhorn terms and Chancery English, and so when I saw Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots, and Leaves at a used bookstore, I bought it.
Publishing a book on grammar takes guts. Inevitably, you will have thousands of people poring over your every sentence looking for mistakes and posting reviews on Amazon, and in this book, it doesn't take long to find them. We all make mistakes, but the author's overuse of the semicolon borders on abuse. A similar complaint can be made for her use of the colon. Even her use of commas is questionable.
In short, this book should not be used as a grammar guide, especially if you are an American. (Truss is British.) British and American grammar differ, particularly in the use of quotation marks. Another quibble: One half of this small book is devoted to the misuse of an apostrophe. This is a legitimate complaint, but half a book? That's overkill.