penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

Pandas not worth the price tag

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I just finished Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.  This is a book about grammar, and being a professional communicator, I thought it might be relevant to my job.  Additionally, there was a time when you could not walk into a book store and not see it prominently displayed in the front, so I thought perhaps I was missing something in waiting so long to read it.

I managed to snag my copy when the employment education library at our work went out of business.  While this seems a bit ironic and certainly is not ideal (and I am now foolishly wishing I had taken more advantage of this resource of work-related reading material when it was still in existence) I was also quite happy to purchase a few bagfuls of books for a couple of bucks.

And this was one I was glad I had not paid full price for.

Essentially the vast majority of the book is the author bemoaning the poor grammar habits of the great unwashed and entreating us all to just solve the syntax suffering of the world by just using punctuation correctly gawd-dammit.

While I understand this is an issue, and I too worry about the state of the nation’s ability to write, this book just comes across as one big whinge.  Imagine Bridget Jones as a comma crusader.  Only less funny.  As a result, this book has lost a potential member of an apostrophe army.

There were moments when it was an enjoyable read.  The parts where the author delved into the history of why a hyphen exists, its proper usage and why it needs to be used that way.  The parts where grand grammarians duked it out over whether it was possible to write an entire book without colons were whimsical.  Towards the end, the author begins a discussion about how language changes and adjusts with the times, and questions whether the latest twists in the fate of the punctuation nation may mean the end of it  (I’d like a 140 character dissertation on the effect of Twitter on English). Unfortunately, just as these parts would get interesting, the author would intrude again to complain and sneer at those who are not comma correct.  It became a bit tiresome.  It might have been more amusing as a shorter feature article in a newspaper or magazine. But as a book that clocks in at over 200 pages, it’s a bit of a yawn.

Now, admittedly I may be the one with the problem.  I am a bit on the slovenly sentence structure side.  I tend to write first and correct my grammar later (or maybe not even bother).   For me, writing has always been about getting the idea down on paper, not about whether I use an Oxford comma (or any comma for that matter).  I even have a theory about this – I am a victim of the whole learning generation.   There, I said it. I never learned proper grammar! Or maybe I just don’t pay enough attention to detail.

Or maybe I’m just jealous of her serious syntax skills.

Either way, I don’t think this book helped change my so-called writing life.   But maybe it will change someone else’s – after I drop the book off at the Sally Anne’s for recycled reading.

Final Verdict:  Good grammar does not always make for a great read.  Period.


Written by pennyinacastle

April 3, 2014 at 2:56 am

Posted in books

Tagged with , ,

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