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Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation is a non-fiction book written by Lynne Truss, the former host of the BBC's Cutting a Dash radio program. In the book, published in 2003, Truss bemoans the state of punctuation in the United Kingdom and the United States and describes how rules are being relaxed in today's society. Her goal is to remind readers of the importance of punctuation in the English language by mixing humour and instruction. Truss dedicates the book "to the memory of the striking Bolshevik printers of St. Petersburg who, in 1905, demanded to be paid the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby directly precipitated the first Russian Revolution."


There is one chapter each on apostrophes and on commas; one on semicolons and colons; one on exclamation marks, question marks, and quotation marks, italic type, dashes, brackets, ellipses, and emoticons; and one on hyphens. Truss touches on varied aspects of the history of punctuation and includes many anecdotes, which add another dimension to her explanations of grammatical rules. In the book's final chapter, she explains the importance of maintaining punctuation rules and addresses the damaging effects of e-mail and the Internet on punctuation.

Irish-American author Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes, wrote the foreword to the U.S. edition of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. In keeping with the general lighthearted tone of the book, he praises Truss for bringing life back into the art of punctuation, adding, "If Lynne Truss were Roman Catholic I'd nominate her for sainthood."

The book was a huge commercial success. In 2004, the U.S. edition became a New York Times bestseller. Contrary to usual publishing convention, the U.S. edition of the book left the original British conventions intact.


The title of the book is an amphibology, a verbal fallacy arising from an ambiguous grammatical construction, and derived from a joke on bad punctuation:


In a 2004 review, Louis Menand of The New Yorker pointed out several punctuation errors in the book, including one in the dedication, and wrote that "an Englishwoman lecturing Americans on semicolons is a little like an American lecturing the French on sauces. Some of Truss's departures from punctuation norms are just British laxness. Truss's book is also one of the bête noires of the popular linguistics blog Language Log.

A parody of Eats, Shoots & Leaves titled Eats, Shites & Leaves: Crap English and How to Use it, by "A. Parody", was published in Great Britain by Michael O'Meara Books Limited in 2004.

In The Fight for English: How language pundits ate, shot and left (OUP 2006), linguist David Crystal analyses the linguistic purism of Truss and other writers down the ages.

In 2006, English lecturer Nicholas Waters released Eats, Roots & Leaves, criticising the "grammar fascists" who "want to stop the language moving into the 21st century.


  • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves (London: Profile Books, 2003) ISBN 1-86197-612-7 (UK hardcover)
  • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves (New York: Gotham Books, 2004) ISBN 1-59240-087-6 (US hardcover)
  • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves (London: Profile Books, 2004) ISBN 1-86197-612-7 (Paperback, Special Indian Edition)

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