I’m not a great fan of using big words, but I couldn’t resist adding the word ‘Punctilious’ before ‘Punctuation’.
Anyway, this post comes about because my wife gave me a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. It’s one of several books, I’m reading at the moment. I’ll have to admit I wasn’t particularly taken with the prospect of reading a book on punctuation, but it’s turned out to be rather funny and quite enlightening.
As I’ve always said about writing: leave spelling, grammar and punctuation to last. Worrying about them will inhibit your creative flow. It’ll jam up your ideas. It’ll stop you from tapping the keyboard – your pen from scribbling.
But punctuation, grammar and spelling become vital when you’re editing; when you’ve getting your work ready for presentation to a publisher.
So why the title: Eats, Shoots & Leaves?
You see, you can either have the sentence: “Eats shoots and leaves” or “Eats, shoots and leaves”. The comma makes all the difference. A Panda may come to visit you and it eats shoots and leaves. That’s fine. No harm done. Just a bit of foliage to clean up. But if it visits you and it eats, shoots and leaves; then I hope you weren’t in the firing line.
Incidentally, I’ve noticed that since reading the book, I’ve been using lots more semi-colons, colons and dashes. This comes from reading a book on punctuation, I suppose.
I’ve also discovered one mistake I’ve been making all these years (I now know I owe Eric, my editor, several apologies).
Which sentence is correct:
Ahmad whispered as he watched TV3, “I can’t believe these rapturous election results”.
Ahmad whispered as he watched TV3, “I can’t believe these rapturous election results.”
Didn’t spot the difference? It’s the full stop. Does it go before of after the 2nd quote marks? I’ve been opting for the 1st whilst the correct one is the 2nd. Alamak!
So how’s your punctuation?