‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’- The Little Book That Could

When Lynne Truss began to write Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The No-Nonsense Approach to Punctuation, she probably didn’t expect it to become such a best seller. “Certainly I didn’t,” she tells The Guardian. “My last novel sold poorly (and I’d received a large advance), which made me poison as far as another publishing contract was concerned.”



The journey started back in the early 2000s. Truss was working freelance after writing about sports and television for The Times in the 90s, leaving in the aftermath of her sister’s death. Andrew Franklin of Profile Books approached her at a party, where they discussed whether she thought she could write a book on punctuation. She told him, “honestly, no, there were several fine books on punctuation already, and I wasn’t an expert.” But Franklin persisted, and a year later, the two would be at the same party with Eats, Shoots and Leaves, not only published but a number one bestseller.


Image Courtesy of Amazon


Lynne Truss chalks the way the book was written up to timing. Being forty seven meant that she had read a lot of books. She knew about how Emily Dickinson loved dashes, how Nicholson Baker felt about semi-colons, and that James Thurber wrote about commas. Her background in editing also helped, giving her a “practical understanding of the subject, and a romantic attitude to print.”



Lynne Truss Quote

                                                                                                         Image courtesy of azquotes.com


Once she had the book published, Lynne Truss and those around her did not expect much to come of it. A journalist friend warned her that it would be torn apart, while her mother advised her to say the book was “FOR THE SELECT FEW.” But, Eats, Shoots and Leaves was a hit. By Christmas, it sold 570,000 copies. All in all, Lynne Truss sold three million books.

On her success, Truss says this: “Luckily I was old enough – and jaded enough – not to take any of the experience as either normal or deserved. It was a fantasy version of publication. But it happened, and now I’ve got a nice house to sit in and write comic crime novels, so I’m not complaining.”

 Featured image courtesy of The guardian

Grammar Table Brings Grammar to the Streets

Ellen Jovin started Grammar Table on more or less of a whim on September 21st, 2018, in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The idea was simple: sit in a public space with a sign that encourages passersby to ask her questions related to grammar and language. To her surprise, the questions came flooding in.


Image via the buffalo news


Jovin is well qualified for the role. She is a founder of Syntaxis, a communication skills training consultancy, and the creator of a language-learning website called Words & Worlds of New York. She also has a B.A. from Harvard in German studies and an M.A. in comparative literature from UCLA.



“I bring to this undertaking a sense of grammar humility,” Jovin told The Buffalo News. “Too many people think they know everything and they freely dispense bad advice in a condescending way.”

Jovin wants to reclaim the trope of the stuffy, overcritical grammarian. Proper grammar isn’t always as ironclad as it may seem. There are legitimate conversations to be had about the use of an em dash in contrast to a semicolon, the use of the pronoun ‘whom,’ or the integrity of an Oxford comma. Language changes from generation to generation, and we need grammarians like Ellen Jovin to guide us down a path that will allow us to communicate our ideas effectively and beautifully.


Ms. Jovin meets fellow wordnik Marcelle Rand, who has an Instagram feed called "Copy Wronged."

Image via NYTimes


Jovin has recently embarked on a Grammar Table tour across the US, and we can also expect a documentary and book coming from her in the future!


Featured Image Via: Grammar Table

When I See the Oxford Comma

Look, I get it. This is the modern world. This is the internet. Punctuation and spelling are fluid and evocative. The linguistics of the internet are fast moving and instinctive, and I love that. But let’s talk about Oxford comma.

I know we’re not passionate about actually using punctuation here. Every time I see someone use a period at the end of a text, I feel the kind of primordial fear I thought was reserved for life or death situations. And don’t get me started on the most ominous punctuation choices of all…..


Sure, it’s the serif font of punctuation. It seems old fashioned at best, effected superfluous. Darn, I forgot the oxford comma, but I’m sure it still made sense.


Image via KnowYourMeme


Context is a beautiful thing, of course, but those would be galaxy brain names for some rhinoceri. You can assume, but you can’t be sure. Maybe the rhino tamer is just a huge history nerd. Here are my emus, Jefferson and Adams.

Sure, people who overuse commas are pedants (eh-hem), but sometimes they’re necessary. If the point is to be understood, why make people guess? Not everyone is going to know your rhinoceros naming philosophies.


Image via edudemic


Grammar doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are all these people, including rhinoceroses. If you’re describing something, no Oxford comma. Or, these are my rhinoceri. Here are their names. Let’s try and take ourselves seriously.

Not to be unrelateable, but just like grammar.




Even if you don’t feel the same, though, the Oxford comma isn’t to be dropped. I don’t know the last time I used a period, but these days, we write for clarity. We capitalize words for Emphasis. Drop what doesn’t work, but keep what does. Internet language is streamlined, and I think that’s beautiful. Let’s keep it that way. But don’t eat grandma in the process.

Featured image via ImgFlip