Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Somehow—I’m still trying to figure out how—I became the “editor-in-chief” of a website. I enjoy editing, it fits my extra-anal personality, but the ironic (I hope I’m using this word correctly) part of my “job” is that I work for a sports website. Let’s just say, I am not an expert on the topic. However, I am trying to become an expert on editing.

Unfortunately, reading about things like grammar and punctuation is almost as boring as reading about Heisman trophy candidates. The one book, as most everyone knows, that broke the snore factor is Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.

I was excited to read this book when it first came out. I’d read great reviews in the New York Times, saw it was on the bestseller list, and wanted to know how Lynne Truss could make grammar sexy.

And she does a fine job. The book is entertaining—at least as entertaining as grammar can be. But Truss has a huge flaw: she’s British.

Okay, that is a bold and prejudiced statement. I don’t dislike Truss for her Britishness, but because of her nationality, her book is potentially dangerous. Another bold statement.

An American audience should only read Eat, Shoots & Leaves for entertainment—and not for educational—purposes. I read it for enjoyment and for punctuation insights, which drove me absolutely crazy. British English and American English simply are not the same. And neither are British punctuation rules and American. I almost lost my mind as Truss kept reinforcing rules like placing punctuation outside quotation marks. I cringe to think of it.

I am not blaming Truss for being British. But I do wonder how many American readers learned “improper” punctuation rules from her book. That being said, if you see any errors on the website I edit, or this one, blame it on Eats, Shoots & Leaves.


Wanna-Be Lit said...

I loved this book because I am so anal and can relate to Truss's irritation over incorrectly punctuated movie titles, restaurant signs, etc. (I erased an additional "n" from "anonymous" on a white board at a grocery store only a few weeks ago.)

However, I second the caution--distinguish between Brit rules and Yank rules. Good thing I had a grammar expert to consult while reading the book.

notaconnoisseur said...

While watching a program the other day about D-Day, I noticed the pronunciation of combatants by the British speaker. We say something like come BAT ents. The British apparently put the stress elsewhere and it sounded more like com ba TANTS. Watching BBC 1 has reinforced the concept that we speak two different languages. Frequently I cannot understand what the people are saying. I do need closed captioning.