'Eats, Shoots & Leaves'

Punctuation, Long Abused, Makes a Comeback

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Listen: Web Extra: Extended Interview with Lynne Truss

Cover of 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves' by Lynne Truss hide caption

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Author Lynne Truss

Author Lynne Truss Andrew Hasson hide caption

itoggle caption Andrew Hasson

Lynne Truss, writer, journalist and advocate of proper punctuation, has come to rescue us from the misplaced comma. In her book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Truss shows how an improper punctuation mark can make all the difference. Unearthing examples of bizarre and careless errors through the ages, this narrative history also shares witty teasers and ambiguous phrases, all entirely dependent on the punctuation.

One such example lent the book its title:

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A panda walks into a bar. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

"Why? Why are you behaving in this strange, un-panda-like fashion?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda walks 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."

Already a best-seller in the United Kingdom, Eats, Shoots & Leaves is now available in the United States. NPR's Bob Edwards speaks to Truss about her book and those powerful little commas and apostrophes.



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