Author of the Month – Lynne Truss


This is a few days early, but I was so excited I had to post it today.  I’ve been scrambling around for the last week trying to figure out which author would do for November’s Author of the Month.  Whose work have I read that I would feel relatively good about recommending to our students, staff and everyone else who comes across this blog?  Why would I want to recommend them?  Was the book excellent at pulling me in (fiction) or was the author informative and understanding of my lack of specialized lingo (non-fiction)?  WHAT AM I GOING TO WRITE ABOUT?

Which is when it came to me.  I’ve been writing much more recently (thanks to the blog) than I have ever previously written.  And I am well aware that many times my grammar and punctuation is less than perfect.  And this hasn’t really bothered me because… well because no one else seems to have perfected the English system of grammar and punctuation either.  The net, schools, work, government signs (doesn’t the government have professional writers working on these?) are full of mistakes.  So you can understand when I wasn’t concerned. And then, I picked up Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.

Lynne Truss is a self-called punctuation stickler who feels the same way about a misplaced comma as most people feel about a tarantula in the bed.  And besides being very convincing about what she believes, Lynne is also incredibly funny.  Perhaps it is that specific combination of zealousness and humour that made this book stand out and stick with me long after I’ve finished reading.  I find myself stopping mid-sentence and asking myself, “Is that apostrophe really necessary there?  What is that rule about apostrophes?”  And while I haven’t yet perfected the written English language, I have improved.  Kudos Ms. Truss.  Now if she went digital like the group from Grammar Blog, there would truly be no escape from her “punctuation vigilantes”.

But that isn’t all that Lynne is confounded about in regards to our society.  Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door is her brilliant rant on our self-centered, lazy, rude, and non-committal way of life.  Again in this book our funny bone is fed generously with Lynne’s words.  It is a call to action!  This “give them the bird and walk away” attitude is only going to get worse unless we work to put an end to it.  While at times Lynne can sound more like a preacher than a writer, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who feels that something is missing from our culture… say… manners?

Lynne has written many other works on punctuation that I have not read, as well as works of fiction.  To see a complete list of her books, click here.

Some of my favourite incorrect punctuation examples from Eats, Shoots and Leaves:

  • A panda walk into a cafe.  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.  “I’m 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.” – Obviously this has to be included.
  • banana’s instead of bananas
  • beef’s hamburger

Some information on Lynne herself (taken from her biography and internet news sources)

  • Born 1955 in Thames, Surrey, England
  • Attended the University College London
  • Has been a freelance writer since 1978
  • Literary editor since 1978
  • Regularly writes for the Sunday Times
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