Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

She Wrote Book on Punctuation, Period

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

She Wrote Book on Punctuation, Period

Article excerpt

This has probably happened to you: You're explaining some minor expertise you have, telling a story or passing on some lesson it has taken painful years to learn, and somebody says, "Wow! You should write a book." It may even be said, on rare occasions, without sarcasm.

And you think, "Hey, maybe I should. Except that, nah, nobody would want to read a book about that. Nobody would publish it, and nobody would pay for it. Hmph."

You go on with your obscure, underappreciated existence. And then you discover that somebody has gone and written that book.

If you are me, you discover that an Englishwoman has written the book and that it has inexplicably become a No. 1 best seller in the United Kingdom, with a half-million copies in print and buzz that would impress Harry Potter.

The book I should have written is called "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation." It is, as the title suggests, an entire book about punctuation.

Now, the reason I never thought seriously about writing a book about punctuation is that I was pretty sure that, no matter how sparklingly it was written, such a book would inspire a printing run of eight copies, seven of which would remain unsold and be recycled into greeting cards printed with soy ink.

(The eighth would be purchased by my mother.)

I still console myself that this book won't sell in the United States. We'll find out when it is published here in April, but I suspect that the English care much more about the language they gave the world than we do, even though they misuse it, too.

British grocers advertise "carrot's and banana's" and British employee handbooks may threaten "a weeks suspension." They, too, put commas where they don't belong and withhold them where they do.

Our trans-Atlantic cousins are very nearly as lazy with the language as we are, except that they are actually buying this book. They may even be reading it.

No one is more surprised than Lynne Truss, the author, a 48-year- old former magazine copy editor. Copy editors are all about punctuation, as well as spelling and grammar. …

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