Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

Article excerpt

Lynne Truss. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. New York: Gotham, 2004.

"A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

'Why?' asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

Tm a panda,' he says, at the door. 'Look it up.'

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

'Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'"

The author of this book uses the aforementioned joke to show that punctuation does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death. It is hard to argue with her on this point. For example, compare the following two sentences:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

The fact is, punctuation can be very important in how we convey and get meaning. …