As vírgulas


Há quem praticamente não use vírgulas e há muito boa gente que usa vírgulas a mais. Como sempre, no meio deverá estar a virtude.

Acho que uma boa regra será: deve pôr-se a vírgula quando, sem a vírgula ou com ela fora do sítio, muda o sentido da frase. Em todos os outros casos, acho que as vírgulas deveriam ser facultativas, ficando ao gosto de cada um.

Mas existem regras para pôr as vírgulas e, por isso, vamos a elas.

As vírgulas significam sempre  (única excepção: sim, senhor! não, senhor!, que não têm pausa) uma pausa na leitura do texto. O que não quer dizer que não se façam outras pausas a ler o texto (é a respiração que o exige), em sítios onde não há vírgulas. Mas, nota muito importante, não se devem fazer pausas nos sítios em que a vírgula seria proibida.

Por isso, muito boa gente manda colocar nos seus discursos  os sinais de pausa, utilizando para isso a barra (/).


Nunca são separados por vírgulas (nem se fazem pausas) os elementos essenciais e os integrantes da oração, nomeadamente não se separam:

a) o predicado do sujeito;

b) o objecto (ou complemento directo) do verbo;

c) o adjunto adnominal do nome (isto é o adjectivo do nome que adjectiva);

d) o complemento nominal do nome;

e) o nome predicativo do sujeito do verbo;

f) o nome predicativo do complemento directo deste mesmo;

g) a oração subordinada substantiva da principal.


A vírgula no interior da oração


É utilizada para:

a) separar elementos repetidos que desempenham a mesma função sintática, quando não estão ligados pelas conjunções, e, ou e nem;

b) para isolar o aposto ou continuado;

c) para isolar o vocativo;

d) isolar elementos repetidos;

e) isolar expressões de carácter explicativo ou correctivo;

f) para isolar um advérbio no início da frase;

g) para indicar a supressão de uma palavra;

h) isolar o nome do lugar, na indicação de datas.



A vírgula entre orações


É utilizada para:

a) para separar as orações coordenadas, salvo as que são introduzidas pela conjunção e;

Nota: É elegante pôr vírgula entre duas orações coordenadas ligadas por e, quando têm sujeitos diferentes.

b) para isolar as orações intercaladas;

c) para isolar as orações subordinadas adjectivas explicativas.

d) para isolar as orações subordinadas adverbiais;

e) Para isolar as orações com infinitivo, gerúndio ou particípio, que são equivalentes a orações adverbiais.



Celso Cunha and Lindley Cintra, Nova Gramática do Português Contemporâneo (Lisboa: Edições João Sá da Costa, 1999), ISBN: 972-923000-5, pgs. 640-646


LINKS sobre pontuação:      O      O      O      O      O     


Site: http://www.eatsshootsandleaves.com/

Death to the otiose comma

For Lynne Truss, proper punctuation is paramount as Nigel Williams discovers in Eats, Shoots and Leaves

Sunday November 9, 2003
The Observer

Eats, Shoots and Leaves
By Lynne Truss
Profile Books, £9.99, pp209

Punctuation!!!! Who needs it???? Do we really care that the italic typeface was invented by a geezer called Aldus Manutius the Elder (1449-1515)? Is it of interest to anyone that he was also the man who printed the first semicolon? And is the semicolon really 'a compliment from the writer to the reader'? Do you really have to count to two in between two related but independent clauses before you use it? When is it correct to use an_ er_ ellipsis? Will not an ordinary dash - like this one - do just as well?

Well, Lynne Truss, who is a little worried about the dash - I know how you feel, Lynne - has written a 'zero- tolerance approach to punctuation' that aims to explain why it really does matter. She has called it Eats, Shoots and Leaves , a title which comes from a joke in which a panda goes into a bar, asks for a ham sandwich, eats it and then takes out a revolver and fires it into the air. When the publican asks him what on earth he is doing, he throws a book on to the bar and growls: 'This is a badly punctuated wildlife manual. Look me up.' The barman flicks through the book and, under the relevant entry, reads: 'PANDA. Large, black-and-white, bear-like mammal native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'

There are plenty of laughs in this book. My favourite story is one about the American chap playing Duncan in Macbeth , listening with appropriate pity and concern while a wounded soldier gives his account of a battle and then cheerfully calling out: 'Go get him, surgeons!' (it should of course be: 'Go, get him surgeons!'). And she reminds us of that old gag loved by Spike Milligan that reworks a sentimental song lyric into a domestic inquiry with one stroke of a comma - 'What is this thing called, love?' She tells - while we're on the subject of commas (sorry, again, about these dashes Lynne) - a marvellous story about New Yorker editor Harold Ross, who liked to put commas in far-flung places, rather in the spirit of a British mountaineer scattering the Union flag in remote corners of the Himalayas.

James Thurber, who fought Ross's comma obsession manfully during his time on the magazine, was once asked by a correspondent why the paper had printed a comma in the sentence: 'After dinner, the men went into the living-room.' 'This particular comma,' Thurber explained, 'was Ross's way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up.'

But this is more than a witty, elegant and passionate book that should be on every writer's shelf. In that last sentence, for example, if I had added a comma after 'elegant' it would be known as an Oxford comma. I did not add it because, although Fowler's Modern English Usage (and most Americans) suggest I should have added it, Truss suggests we should only use it if there is a case for calling attention to the last noun in a list. And, quite clearly, 'passionate' is doing the same kind of work in the sentence as 'charming' and 'elegant'.

Punctuation, in other words, invites you to give careful consideration to the meaning of what you are saying. And people who ignore it, like Marinetti, the futurist, or Gertrude Stein, the_ er_ writer, are generally full of shit. Truss tells the story of Roger Casement, who was charged under the Treason Act of 1351. His counsel contended that, because the Act was unpunctuated, the phrase 'if the man be adherent to the king's enemies in his realm giving to them aid and comfort in the realm or elsewhere' could be construed to mean that it was perfectly all right to plot against the realm provided you did it abroad. Two judges trudged off to the public records and found a faint comma, after the second 'realm'. This, according to Mr Justice Darling (is this where Blackadder got the name?) proved that 'giving aid and comfort' were words of apposition, ie if you were on the side of the king's enemies you were on their side wherever you happened to be. And Casement was duly hanged.

Lynne Truss's book is (stay with this sentence, and remember the function of punctuation is to 'tango the reader into the pauses, inflections, continuities and connections that the spoken word would convey') as much an argument for clear thinking as it is a pedantic defence of obsolete conventions of written language. Well. Done. Lynne!!!!!!!



Pay attention: it's important!
(Filed: 24/11/2003)

Oliver Pritchett reviews Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

I have always had a great affection for the semicolon; it has a certain discreet charm. On the other hand, there is just one word to describe the colon: bossy. A colon says: "Pay attention, this next bit is really important." If the colon is a fanfare, the semicolon is more like a polite cough. It is a nasty shock to discover that it has enemies. Gertrude Stein, who might, in her time, have been considered a bit of a bossyboots herself, suggested that semicolons were simply commas with pretensions.

Others have even claimed that semicolons were middle class. (I was tempted to put an exclamation mark at the end of the last sentence to draw attention to the absurdity of the notion, but good manners restrained me.) As Lynne Truss says in this witty, clear-headed and altogether enchanting book, "If they are middle class, I'm a serviette."

This is not just another of those grammarians' gripes about greengrocers, and, in spite of the reference in the title to zero tolerance, Lynne Truss remains utterly good-natured throughout. She says she is not a pedant, but a stickler - which is a description that many of us would be happy to adopt. She does say that people who put an apostrophe in the wrong place, when they ought to know better, deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave, but it's probably mostly in fun. Although she is given to the occasional expression of fierce bravado, I suspect that she is civil to her greengrocer.

This is a celebration of punctuation, full of jokes and anecdotes and information. It also introduces us to a new hero, and, as a fitting act of deference, I am going to put down a colon before writing his name: Aldus Manutius the Elder. This Venetian printer, who lived from 1450 to 1515, was the inventor of the italic typeface and also the first to use the semicolon.

I should mention that Eats, Shoots and Leaves is also extremely helpful to anyone who is looking for guidance about commas, brackets, dashes and the rest of them, and who is perhaps intimidated by the whole business. Most of all, it makes you love punctuation; you want to conserve what is still left and perhaps even call for more of it. Is it time to campaign for the British to adopt the Spanish upside-down question mark, which appears as an advance warning of a sentence with a query in it? Should we demand more tildes?

Reading this book put me in such a good mood that I came close to taking a wishy-washy liberal view and almost forgiving the people who use that modern punctuation atrocity, the "forward slash". This is the one that is so beloved by presenters of Radio 4 programmes when they nag you to visit their website. It makes me feel like hurling potato's (sic) at the radio.



01/12/03 - Books section

A Christmas spell
By Evening Standard Reporter

A book detailing misuse of apostrophes and commas in the English language has become perhaps the unlikeliest Christmas best-seller.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss features readers' tales of terrible punctuation mistakes, such as one correspondent who refers to a sign advertising "cream tea's".

It is currently number one on the amazon.co.uk bestseller chart - and the initial print run of just 15,000 has been extended to 140,000.



Points under discussion
Philip Hensher

By Lynne Truss
Profile, £9.99, pp.228, ISBN:1861976127

Some great writers just can’t punctuate at all, but not that many. Anyone who reads through the 1987 Pleiade text of Proust, an edition which preserves, to an unprecedented extent, every foible of his manuscripts, will be absolutely astonished by the incredible confusion of his punctuation. Nancy Mitford was someone else who had almost no grasp of punctuation, wavering between a Molly Bloom-like flood and the sort of delineation which would only make sense in German, marking off every subordinate clause — Evelyn Waugh told her, unkindly, that like theology punctuation was simply not her subject.

There might be other examples, but they are rare. More good writers can punctuate expressively, I suspect, than can spell correctly. To understand why, it is important to realise that punctuation in English is governed partly by simple correctness, and partly by individual taste. The sensitivity towards the different nuances implied by different punctuating is at the root of a good writer’s skills.

For example, a novelist might have two characters in conversation: the first says, let us imagine, ‘Does he still love her?’ and the second replies, ‘No not at all.’ A good writer will understand that the reply can be inflected significantly, without actually changing the meaning or the words. In different circumstances, the reply would be rendered as ‘No, not at all,’ or ‘No. Not at all.’ Or ‘No; not at all’ or ‘No — not at all —’ or ‘No! Not at all!’ or even ‘No? Not at all?’ A good writer has to be aware of fine nuances, and someone who can’t control punctuation suggestively will have substantial problems elsewhere.

Moreover, punctuation in English can be varied very widely, and still remain correct. Punctuation in other languages is much more rigid, and the possibilities for expressive variation in German, say, are far fewer; a sentence there will be correctly or incorrectly punctuated, and that is that. In English, writers derive a lot of individual flavour from the density and variety of their punctuation. One writer will write, ‘John, however, had sausage, chips, and beans, for what, invariably, he described as his Sunday, or holiday, brunch.’ Another, no less correctly, could write the same sentence and leave out pretty well every one of those commas. In German, each comma is firmly prescribed, and only a deliberately avant-garde writer will leave them out.

Moreover, many writers will have items of punctuation which they like, and others which they passionately dislike. Personally, I can’t bear the exclamation mark used for any other reason than to signal an ejaculation — ‘Christ!’ — and not always then; the overuse of it always signals a fairly humourless writer, or a 12-year-old girl. ‘I really really like him! He’s in my maths class!!’ And I don’t much like parentheses; either put your subordinate thought between dashes or organise your argument better. As for the ellipsis for any other purpose than to indicate an omission, particularly for the trailing-off cadence, I think it not far from an abomination; my enjoyment of Martin Amis’s novels is seriously affected by his addiction to it.

Like most things in English usage, punctuation exists on a scale ranging from absurd pedantry to blatant illiteracy. At the top end, there are probably still people who write ‘sha’n’t’; at the bottom are Miss Truss’s targets. She acknowledges that in large areas users will agree to disagree; but she has also assembled a wonderful chamber of horrors of wild misuse. These horrible examples are richly enjoyable – no one goes to the ‘Giant Kid’s Playground’, presumably because everyone’s too frightened of the Giant Kid. Or there is the glorious piece of racist graffiti, ‘Nigger’s Out,’ to which some smarter person added, ‘But he’ll be back shortly.’

We’ve all had to get used to the so-called ‘greengrocer’s apostrophe’ as in ‘Tomato’s, £1.50’; to the nervous apostrophising tic in an Abbey National advert, ‘Make our customer’s live’s easier’; and, recently, to even wilder inclusions encouraged by any final s in a word — ‘XMA’S TREES’ or, as Miss Truss claims to have seen, ‘Glady’s’ on a salesgirl’s badge. There is no halting it, and now we have the intermediate possessive apostrophe — or does it indicate a glottal stop? — in the name of the pop group Hear’Say.

Now, the proliferation of apostrophes is horrible and idiotic, and falls into the formal category of ‘hyper-correctness’. But when we get on to examples of the omission of the possessive apostrophe, I wonder whether this is always so terrible. Unambiguous signs like ‘Britains Biggest Junction’ have simplified something, and I don’t agree with Miss Truss that formulations like ‘author photograph’ are so terrible — indeed, Black English simplifies further, and often says ‘John car’, which might be the direction the language is heading in. The possessive apostrophe is a historical nightmare; it arises long after the formal declined genitive in -es which some 18th-century theorists thought it indicated had disappeared. Once it appeared, it had to take on an enormous amount of weight which a language with more varied genitives might spread around. But it is illogical, excessively intricate and if we could get rid of it altogether in favour of the ‘Britains Biggest Junction’ formula, it would be a great improvement.

The problem is ambiguity. We got rid of the first apostrophe in ‘sha’n’t’, and there is no reason why we can’t get rid of the second, or why ‘you’re’ shouldn’t lose it. But ‘we’re’ needs to be distinguished from ‘were’, the past tense of to be, or chaos will arise, and ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ need distinguishing. George Bernard Shaw strongly argued that ‘dont’ and ‘shant’ should be the accepted forms; the problem is that applying the rule across the board would lead, in some instances, to ambiguity.

Good a guide as Miss Truss is to correct usage, the wide possible variations in personal usage mean that one sometimes disagrees with her strongly. I’m amazed that she permits the apostrophe to indicate plurals, as in ‘there are too many and’s and but’s.’ She is a bit hard on some computer-derived punctuation styles, such as the newish convention that text enclosed between asterisks should be read as in italics. Her native sunniness of temperament — it is not everyone who would entitle a book on this subject after the story about the panda in the bar — leads her, in my opinion, to be far too forgiving of such repulsive pedantries as the ‘Oxford comma’ — the second one in ‘I ate sausage, chips, and beans’ — and the logical but hideous placing of the full stop after final quotation marks. She is deplorably forgiving of the illiteracy of the ‘splice comma’ — ‘John went to town, he was wearing a blue sweater.’ Moreover, it is a little surprising to see some of the things she thinks very fogeyish; I would always put an apostrophe before ’cello, and her example of antique use of commas –— ‘Belinda opened the trap door, and, after listening for a moment, she closed it again’ — is exactly what I would write.

All the same, a very enjoyable book, and, mostly, a correct one over which we can agree to disagree, since she is on the side of the angels. If you have read this far, this may be the book for you; if, on the other hand, it all seems bizarrely footling, then you will give it a miss, however much you need it.



Jan. 12 issue -

Books: Punctuation Points

Ok, we admit it, without spell check and the grammar toolbar on our PCs, we'd all be completely lost. So the timing couldn't be better for the publication of "Eats, Shoots & Leaves," a collection of historical tales, amusing anecdotes and interesting ponderings about how and why correct punctuation has become an endangered species. Author Lynn Truss fills each chapter with analyses of everything from the misuse of the apostrophe ("The apostrophe is the frantically multi-tasking female, dotting hither and yon, and succumbing to burnout from all the thankless effort"); to the debate over the Oxford comma (to use or not to use one before "and" in a list of items); to whether hyphens should be banished. Though her concept is timely—most of us could use a refresher course in punctuation—at times Truss's lengthy ponderings try the reader's patience. For one, she drones on ad nauseam about each subject—32 pages on the apostrophe, 35 pages on the comma. But taken in small doses at a time, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" is insightful, and its anecdotes will make you chuckle. Consider the one from which its title springs: One day a panda walks into a cafe, eats a sandwich, shoots a gun into the air and starts to head out the door. When pressed for an explanation for his actions, the panda throws a badly punctuated book at the waiter and tells him to turn to the section about his species. The waiter turns to the page and reads: "Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."
—Ginanne Brownell


Al-Ahram Weekly

20 - 26 November 2003
Issue No. 665

Plain Talk

By Mursi Saad El-Din

Three articles in the British press attracted my attention and I find them closely linked. The Sunday Times culture supplement this week published a review of a new book with the title Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Forget the main title, it's the subtitle that is interesting. According to the reviewer, Lynne Truss, the book is about common errors committed even by leading journalists and writers.

One of these flagrant but very common errors in the use of the apostrophe. According to the Nesfield grammar, which I had to study, it is required before a possessive "s" in the singular ("the water's edge") and after a possessive "s" in the plural ("in four days' time").

The author is quoted in the review as saying, "The confusion of the possessive 'its' (no apostrophe) with the contractive 'it's' is an unequivocal sign of illiteracy." She goes on to say that people who persist in writing "good food at it's best" deserve to be struck by lightning. I must admit I have come across some of the examples she gives, especially in America. A sign indicating a Giant Kid's Playground must have kept all but the bravest away.

The book underscores the importance of punctuation. A comma in the wrong place can change the meaning of a sentence. It is essential to the legibility of a text. This is why English newsreaders can read a script thrust into their hands at the last minute.

Two other articles appeared on the same page of the Observer under a quote from Othello: "I understand a fury in your words, but not the words." The article, by Mark Townsend and Martin Bright, takes up the complex problem of teaching Shakespeare and the English classics in general.

"Literary classics," they suggest, "should be radically represented with a gripping modern twist." They give the example of the BBC's presentation of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales which attracted over seven million viewers, many of whom were young. This success demonstrated what could be achieved through a fresh approach to the classics.

Statistics reveal that few British students, particularly among boys, study English. Just over 21,000 boys took the English A-Level this year, compared with over 55,000 girls. "There is a real question of feminisation within the subject," remarked one education expert.

The minister of education in Britain even called for "crisis meetings" with English experts. There is a general feeling that the compulsory element of Shakespeare in the curriculum is turning boys off English. Some teachers criticise the manner in which Shakespeare is taught, with close analysis of texts and no room for the imagination. But does this mean that Shakespeare should be rewritten, as some propose? Bethany Marshall, lecturer in English at King's College, does not agree.

"What is the point of reading Shakespeare if not for the language? The plots of Shakespeare are highly melodramatic. The subtlety of expression is what you want students to grasp."

Now I come to the third article on the same page by David Smith. It is a plea for children to visit the theatre. He cites Philip Pullman, the award-winning children's writer and former teacher, who believes that pupils are being denied educational trips to the theatre because head-teachers fear losing ground in school league tables.

Pullman is having a trilogy performed at the National Theatre, where the director "is doing great things, with a season which is bringing in lots of young people who've never been to the theatre before." Theatre, Pullman says, raises the level of civilisation in a country. "When you're watching real actors in a real space, you're breathing the same air, you're being lit by the same lights. It has a reality and presence nothing else can match."

At a time when English is becoming ever more commonly spoken, such debates over its teaching have a relevance that extends far beyond the shores of the British Isles.

Punctuation marks a way to sell book's

Yes, that's wrong - and a surprise Christmas bestseller will tell you why

David Smith, arts and media correspondent
Sunday November 30, 2003
The Observer

The advertising budget is zero, the dustjacket an unappetising yellow and the subject matter has long been deemed the preserve of pupils, pedants and Scrabble players. Yet a £9.99 hardback called Eats, Shoots & Leaves, subtitled The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, is this year's Christmas publishing sensation.

The book, by the writer and broadcaster Lynne Truss, raced to the top of the bestseller charts by selling 50,000 copies in its first 10 days and is now close to 100,000.

Several universities have contacted Profile Books, the small publisher behind it, with a view to making it a compulsory text for undergraduates. It has been praised by critics and championed by John Humphrys, presenter of Radio 4's Today programme, for its heartfelt protest at the way punctuation is being allowed to go to the dogs.

Now the rights to US publication have been bought by Penguin for £70,000, with a view to tackling American punctuation next summer. Truss, who is 'astounded' by the success, can look forward to a potentially lucrative US book tour and, having presented a series about punctuation on Radio 4 last year, also expects offers to pour in from television.

In the book, she makes a strong case for the power of punctuation. She dedicates it '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'. Later, she laments: 'It is already too late to campaign for Heinz to add punctuation marks to their Alphabetti Spaghetti, yet it may not be too late to save the semi-colon and apostrophe.'

The publishing industry is comparing the book to last year's pre-Christmas phenomenon, Schott's Original Miscellany, a collection of facts and figures which came out of nowhere to sell 171,000 copies. Its author, Ben Schott, has offered Schott's Food and Drink Miscellany this year, also at £9.99, but has been overtaken by Truss in the Waterstone's bestseller list.

'This is the book everyone's buying for Christmas,' said Scott Pack, Waterstone's buying manager. 'We had high hopes and have supported it, but are pleasantly surprised it's done so well. The word of mouth is very good and it has built its own momentum.'

Eats, Shoots & Leaves is second in the Waterstone's rankings and would probably be top but for a TV-promoted half-price offer for Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. Pack added: 'No one in the publishing industry thought it would be in the top three over Christmas. If you'd been making a list of trendy subjects, I'm sure you wouldn't have put grammar and punctuation there. But Lynne Truss has hit a raw nerve. A lot of people are buying it for themselves or to give it to anyone they know who's pedantic.'

Truss said: 'I'm astounded. It's partly that the people who have been trained to use punctuation properly are upset to see it badly used, and partly, perhaps, that some people genuinely want to learn what punctuation can do for them.'

The title derives from one of the book's numerous jokes: A panda goes into a bar, orders a sandwich, fires a gun and heads for the door. A shaken barman asks why. 'Look it up,' says the panda, throwing him a badly punctuated wildlife manual. The barman turns to the relevant page: 'Panda: Bear-like mammal native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'

The book was born of a chance meeting at a Christmas party last year between Truss and Andrew Franklin, who had published one of her novels at Penguin in the 1990s.

Now publisher and managing director of Profile Books, Franklin said: 'She'd been doing a couple of programmes about punctuation on the radio, so I suggested she should write a book. Eleven months later, this is the result. I'd love to say we were brilliant and saw it's the way the trends are going, but it wouldn't really be true. We didn't plan spending money on advertising but did believe it was very good and the booksellers liked it before publication. For the cover, we briefed the designer and he came up with a colour I like - I've got it in my kitchen at home.

'We printed 15,000 copies and, while I was away, our sales director decided to print another 10,000. I had my doubts and thought she'd been rash with other people's money! In fact, by next week there will be 140,000 copies, and we'll be printing again taking it up to about 160,000.

'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells would be thrilled by this book, and so would a naturally bright teenager or a pedantic journalist. It says all that needs to be said. It's also extremely funny.'

Truss has also rocketed into the top 10 at Amazon.co.uk, the online bookshop. The 209-page volume has also been welcomed by the Plain English Campaign. 'It's quite interesting to see a zero tolerance approach without being po-faced,' said spokesman John Lister. 'It's funny and witty, not like reading a grammar text book and going back to school.'

Punctuation pitfalls that can transform sentences into utter gibberish

The misplaced comma: An actor playing Duncan in Macbeth called out, 'Go get him, surgeons!' when he should have said, 'Go, get him surgeons'.

The missing question mark: Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Altered meanings: A woman, without her man, is nothing. A woman: without her, man is nothing.

The yob's comma: The society decided not to prosecute the owners of the Windsor Safari Park, where animals, have allegedly been fed live to snakes and lions, on legal advice.

The missing apostrophe: Dead sons photos may be released. Thank God its Friday. Dicks in tray. Prudential - were here to help you.

The colon and semi-colon - old-fashioned, middle-class and dangerously addictive?

The exclamation mark - like laughing at your own jokes?

The Oxford comma debate: Ham, eggs and chips versus ham, eggs, and chips.

Plain illiteracy: Make our customer's live's easier. Gateaux's. Your 21 today!

Hear'Say: The pop group's apostrophe was, according to Truss, 'a significant milestone on the road to punctuation anarchy'.


Sunday Herald - 26 October 2003

The murder of language is lethal, literally


Two new books are at the vanguard of a grammatical uprising against the revolting misuse of English. Pen in hand, Lesley McDowell joins the mêlée


IT’S true. Bad punctuation and grammar can almost kill you. Last summer, while driving at a reasonable pace along a motorway, I passed a café with the following notice outside: “Breakfast’s. Lunche’s. Dinner’s.” I almost lost control of the wheel trying to picture what sort of exotic soul might enjoy a daily “lunche”.

In case you’re thinking it wasn’t bad punctuation that almost killed me but my own pedantry, I have to say that I am not alone in experiencing feelings of horror at a misused apostrophe, the firmly entrenched split infinitive (Captain Kirk, you have a lot to answer for), the regular substitution of “less” for “fewer” (less money, fewer footballers, if you please), and the losing out of “different from” to the Americanised “different to.”

We grammar pedants are joining ranks and fighting back. This month sees the publication of Between You And I: A Little Book Of Bad English by James Cochrane (Icon), with an introduction by Today presenter John Humphrys, who laments the incorrect usage of “you and I” on the heading of his very first column for The Times – something that would never have happened in the golden, grammatically correct past.

And on November 3, Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots And Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach To Punctuation (Profile) is published. Truss contends that good punctuation is like good manners – the latter makes things easier for everyone, without being noticed, just as the former should. So it seems that the time has finally come for grammar pedants everywhere to stand up and declare themselves fogies, sticklers, or just people without lives. After years of suffering we have reached a point of no return. This continued attack on language is something up with which we will no longer put (to paraphrase Winston Churchill).

It is a strange fact that in this information age, when we are constantly reminded that knowledge is power, nobody seems to think that knowledge of punctuation, or correct grammar, is power too. A liberal education policy from the 1970s, which placed the emphasis on schoolchildren expressing themselves, not on how they expressed themselves, generally tends to cop most of the flak from grammarians for today’s generation of apostrophe illiterates.

There may be something in that argument – I was subjected to an old-fashioned education that included laborious lessons in figures of speech as well as grammar, with several years of Latin thrown in for good measure. It has turned me into the grammar pedant I am today, but it’s an education that I am glad I had. When a particular editor once rounded on me in the office, loudly criticising an article I’d written for beginning – horrors – with a gerund, I was able to inform him quietly and politely at the end of his rant that it wasn’t a gerund. That’s a verbal noun. This was a verbal adjective, I told him, which made it a gerundive.

Petty point scoring isn’t real power, I hear you cry. But when those in authority can’t get their grammar right, it goes some way to puncturing that power. And in an increasingly visible age of communication, when the internet and text messaging are replacing telephone calls and conversations, the correct grammatical usage is even more important. It’s important to make ourselves understood, to clarify our meaning. It helps get things done.

The importance of the written word was brought home to us more than 60 years ago by James Joyce, who famously promised after writing his last book that he would “give back the English language. I’m not destroying it for good”. Finnegans Wake was a mass of neologisms, puns and crazy punctuation . But, significantly, you can only see that the crucial apostrophe isn’t there, you can’t hear it. Perhaps, then, today’s ubiquitous little “stroke” – and the attempted destruction of language by those who seek to use it where it isn’t wanted – is really his fault. All those breakfast’s, lunche’s and dinner’s are just making up for what poor little Finnegans Wake has lacked all this time.










The joy of dots

Dec 4th 2003
From The Economist print edition

Birth of the Apostrophe Liberation Society

CHRISTMAS isn't Christmas without a publishing phenomenon. Last year it was “Schott's Original Miscellany”, a collection of obscure and unrelated facts whose appeal lay in its very uselessness. This year's unexpected success is more practical. “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” is bringing cheer to booksellers and pedants all over the country.

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, draws a gun and fires. As he is on his way out, the waiter asks him why. The panda hands him a badly punctuated wildlife manual. The waiter reads, “Panda: Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Punctuation, says Lynne Truss, is the track along which language runs. When it breaks down, so does meaning. She illustrates her point with countless cheerful examples. Where, for instance, would extra-marital sex be without its hyphen? In a completely different moral sphere.

The book is less instruction manual than celebration. “You know those self-help books that give you permission to love yourself? This one gives you permission to love punctuation.” Not the exclamation mark, however, which smacks of laughing at one's own joke.

Readers moved to passion by a misplaced apostrophe are not alone. Milan Kundera once sacked a publisher over a semi-colon; Harold Ross, a former New Yorker editor, and James Thurber rowed frequently over commas. Thurber, who disliked them, usually lost. He was once asked by a correspondent why there was a comma in the sentence, “After dinner, the men went into the living room.” “His answer”, says Ms Truss, “was probably one of the loveliest things ever said about punctuation. ‘This particular comma’, Thurber explained, ‘was Ross's way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up.’”

The book is also a call to action. Being a punctuation stickler is, as Ms Truss points out, lonely. You are accused of nerdishness, of interfering, of—God forbid—being middle class. “Sticklers unite, you have nothing to lose but your sense of proportion, and arguably you didn't have a lot of that to begin with.” (Maybe so; but there's a nasty splice comma up at the top of that sentence.)

Why, when other punctuation manuals are on the market (The Economist's style book is available at a very reasonable £16.99), is this one a bestseller? Timing. As people worry about the white rhino only when it is nearly extinct, so they defend punctuation only when it is endangered. The threat is not so much the greengrocer's apostrophe—his tomato's have been on sale for decades—as e-mails and text messages. In the first, speed undermines precision; in the second, brevity destroys form. Worse, both use sacred marks for their profane little emoticons :-) It's enough to drive one to an exclamation mark!


Backlash against the forward slash
E. S. Turner
11 December 2003

Lynne Truss
The zero tolerance approach to punctuation
Profile. £9.99.
1 86197 612 7

This book is ringingly dedicated “to the memory of the Bolshevik printers of St Petersburg who, in 1905, demanded to be paid the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby precipitated the Russian Revolution”. As composing-room revolts go, that outclasses my Punch fantasy, some decades ago, of a conspiracy by printers to refuse to set four-letter words, or alternatively, to charge exorbitantly for so doing, thus imperilling the advance of the permissive society. Support from any quarter, venal or high-minded, is welcomed by Lynne Truss in her witty, knockabout blast against all who flout the laws of punctuation, a nippy adjudicator in a brash new world of “bullet points” and “forward slashes”. Vigorously she reciprocates the cries of “Get
a life!” directed at anyone who complains about the “greengrocer’s apostrophe” (“tomato!s”). She sees punctuation as an endangered art, threatened by bestial ignorance, slack journalism, the unedited free-for-all of the internet and even the tortuosities of text-messaging. In an “apocalypse now” moment she sees the glorious age of printing as “due to hold its official retirement party next Friday afternoon at half-past five”. Not that the heirs of Caxton are blameless. Why is it that “full stops and commas are often tiny in modern typefaces”? Even semicolons are so emaciated that the reader misses them and has to back-track. This is a breach of good manners. For punctuation, visible punctuation, is essentially – as that newspaper style guide put it – “a courtesy to help readers to understand a story without stumbling”.

It is the pitfalls of punctuation that fascinate. No book on the subject could overlook the Jameson Raid, which may or may not have been launched by a missing full stop, or the fate of Sir Roger Casement, said by some to have been “hanged on a comma”. To these old faithfuls Truss adds the riddle of whether Graham Greene, by inserting a last-minute comma in his will, negated his intention. James Thurber would not have committed that error. A devout anti-comma man, he conducted a long, attritional war with Harold Ross, Editor of the New Yorker, who “seemed to believe there was no limit to the amount of clarification you could achieve if you just kept on adding commas”. There are comma jokes galore. The title of this book, of course, hangs on a comma (think: gun-toting panda). Not funny enough? Then try the tale of the New Hampshire production of Macbeth in which “Go, get him surgeons” was rendered “Go get him, surgeons”.

The impassioned author is somewhat carried away by her new historical hero, discovered too late “to have his babies”. He is Aldus Manutius the Elder (d 1515), credited with having printed the first semicolon, besides inventing the italic face. As a gruesome sample from Virginia Woolf shows, the semicolon is “dangerously habit-forming”. Bernard Shaw “used colons and semicolons in over-abundance, with deliberate spacing to draw attention to them, too, as if they were genuine musical notation”. P. G. Wodehouse did “an effortlessly marvellous job” without semicolons, and Martin Amis is said to have used only one in Money, looking “afterwards (more than usually) pleased with himself”. Life is too short to check out such statements; however, page one of Uncle Fred in the Springtime, picked up at random, has a colon where most of us would have put a semicolon. Would Wodehouse have dared to invent that “fastidious journalist” who, according to James Agate, “once telephoned a semicolon from Moscow”? Truss has heard of Knightsbridge clinics which offer semicolonic irrigation for serious sufferers, disdaining to add the fashionable “Actually, I just made that up”. How Emily Dickinson would have jeeredat all this, relying as she did on a dash for all purposes.

The hyphen is a perpetual troublemaker. It is at its least endearing when used – increasingly of late – to string together surnames after marriage. Woodrow Wilson apparently condemned the hyphen as “the most un-American thing in the world”. Many are keen to abolish it and the Americans have gone a long way to doing so, often with unhappy results, like “deice” for “de-icing”. There are copious reasons for retention. Extra-marital sex, if robbed of its hyphen, “is another bunch of coconuts”, and to rob the pickled-herring merchant of his hyphen is to perpetrate a libel.

And so to the exclamation mark, here employed after “but hey!”, that now ubiquitous interjection, not after a but-less “hey”. The spread of this mark, regarded by Fowler as adding a spurious sensation to something unsensational, was once limited because many typewriter keyboards did not contain a “screamer”, which had to be time-wastingly built up with a comma and an apostrophe. Copy editors, who come in for their share of stick in these pages, are trained to strike out the exclamation mark, but Truss says she once suffered the mortification of having one inserted. Nevertheless, she is against suppression – “it doesn’t mean any harm to anyone and is so desperately keen”.

Lumpen offenders against punctuation are unlikely to read this book, and foreigners learning English may be baffled by some of the persiflage, which in turn may exasperate pedants. Teachers who believe that punctuation and spelling inhibit self-expression will hate every word. That leaves the defeatist army “looking for an excuse not to master the colon and the semicolon”, who should now brace themselves for one more attempt. They will find sane advice and well-assured good judgements in this unorthodox manual, along with more entertainment than is to be found in many a Christmas book.


Up the colon

After reading Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Steven Poole concludes that punctuation should be a help, not a hindrance

Stephen Poole
Saturday December 13, 2003
The Guardian

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
by Lynne Truss
209pp, Profile, £9.99

Passions can run high about punctuation. I fondly remember a helpful publishing person once changing all my semicolons to colons, and vice versa, necessitating a long and increasingly grouchy explanation of why I had used them correctly in the first place. To certain eyes the misuse of a colon or comma bespeaks an almost immoral vagueness: if you can't punctuate properly, you probably aren't thinking properly in the first place. And then there are those hyper-sensitive souls who feel a misplaced apostrophe on a fruit-stall sign - "Banana's" - as a sharp mental wound, a barbarism that really spoils their day.

To read Lynne Truss's tiny, bubbly book in defence of punctuation pedantry is to witness an obsession pushed to extremes. One may be irritated by misplaced apostrophes in shop notices, but it is quite hard to make up an example in which such a mistake might lead to a real ambiguity of meaning. I know what a sign saying "Banana's" is telling me: there are bendy yellow fruits for sale. Yum. But Truss becomes outraged at such solecisms, lamenting the name of the pop group Hear'Say, pouncing on (suspiciously anonymous) newspaper headlines with missing apostrophes, and even telling us how she demonstrated outside a cinema showing the film Two Weeks [sic] Notice, with a large cardboard apostrophe on a stick. Rather you than me, dear.

The book improves when it leaves the hoary subject of apostrophes and its attendant Middle England snobbery, and scoots merrily through an attenuated history of other punctuation marks and their usages - commas, dashes, brackets (or lunulae) and so on. At the end Truss attempts a rousing plea for preservation of our current system of punctuation (historically contingent and always in flux though she has shown it to be) in an age of increasingly anarchic orthography, where emailers and texters flout all known rules and even turn punctuation (oh, the horror!) into smiley faces.

Truss tries very hard to be funny, and she is often successful. There is a certain melancholy comedy in her image of scribblers in thrall to semicolon addiction: "But the writers rock back and forth on their office chairs, softly tapping the semicolon key and emitting low whimpers." On the other hand, there is a forced and completely misguided riff about a line in Hamlet. Her case suffers from constant overstatement, perhaps exemplified by the joke about a panda to which the title is the punchline, which is too tedious to rehearse here but which depends on an entirely implausible punctuation mistake.

And if we are to be brutally honest, her regular quotations from others who have written on this subject - true giants such as Eric Fowler, Kingsley Amis or George Bernard Shaw - serve only to show that pedantry works best when allied to an economical wit and rock-solid prose, rather than Truss's own consistent style of overheated whimsy, which becomes oppressive even in such a brief book. Correct punctuation is not a sufficient condition for excellent writing - nor even a necessary one, as the eccentric habits of countless novelists down the years happily attest.

The most alarming thing about Eats, Shoots & Leaves is perhaps that, while you begin it smiling in benign horror at the excesses of Truss's obsession, you may end it brainwashed into trying to outdo the author herself in forensic quibbling. I found myself asking, for instance, whether the subtitle presents some problems. Doesn't a zero-tolerance approach to punctuation properly mean that one should not tolerate any punctuation at all? Also, according to Truss's own preference for hyphenating adjectival compounds, there surely ought to be a hyphen between "Zero" and "Tolerance". Otherwise it could be read as saying something obscure about how we should tolerate zeros being used as punctuation marks. You see how this kind of thing is catching? I could go on, but blessedly space forbids.

Success won't spoil her, full stop
(Filed: 17/12/2003)

Lynne Truss's bestselling book on punctuation has sold half a million copies, but fame makes her feel like crying, she tells Elizabeth Grice

It's enough to make struggling writers weep. Lynne Truss is about to come into a small fortune from the proceeds of her phenomenally successful little book on punctuation - and what is she planning to splash out on? An office chair. Congratulations from well-wishers are pinging hourly into her inbox and how does it make her feel? Like crying. She could go out and indulge her late-flowering interest in "nice jewellery", but what is her dominant emotion? Anxiety: she is nervous of possessing anything that is going to make someone else jealous.

The postman rings the bell of her narrow house in Brighton and she rushes back in clutching a Jiffy bag. She rips it open in such a frenzy that I expect, at the very least, a diamond-encrusted bracelet to fall on to the carpet.

"Ooh, the uni-ball II !" she gasps. "This is how sad I am. My favourite pen - 99p each and you can't get them anywhere. I had to contact Mitsubishi Pens direct. They've sent 30."

Truss clearly has some way to go before wealth goes to her head. "If I had a couple of hours in the Burlington Arcade, I think I could go absolutely nuts," she says, trying not to disappoint. But you know she wouldn't. What she really wants is to sink into the black leather of an Aeron office chair, take up a uni-ball II and start making notes for her next book.

What will it be this time? Another historical novel? A witty book on grammar - the sequel her fans are begging for? The real luxury of making £750,000 from her bestselling Eats, Shoots and Leaves, she says, is that it buys her time to decide.

At the beginning of the year, Truss, 48, was in despair over her finances. Her last comic novel, Going Loco (1999), had been a flop. She'd given up journalism to write radio plays for the BBC, and discovered they hardly kept her in cat food. She had remortgaged her house. And, when her computer packed up, she couldn't afford to replace it, so her mother bought her a new one.

"I was very worried about the future," she says. "Where would I be in 12 months' time if I carried on like this? Should I move house?"

A year ago, at a Christmas party, her former publisher, Andrew Franklin, said he had heard her talking on the radio about punctuation. The subject would "make a nice little book" for his company, Profile Books.

Truss, a woman of many wild enthusiasms (the ruled Post-it note is her latest), is passionate about correct English in general and punctuation in particular. She renounced every other responsibility, except her two ancient cats, and wrote the book in six months - taking only a £15,000 advance because her previous sales record had been so dire.

"I thought if I made a small profit, it might cancel out my publishing reputation as a sort of Typhoid Mary. It was time to be viable again."

Considering the esoteric nature of the subject, Profile Books gave Eats, Shoots and Leaves a flamboyant initial print run of 15,000. Then everything went wonderfully mad. Bookshops couldn't get enough; universities were putting the book on reading lists; people were gossiping about commas and hyphens. Her small volume shot to number one in the bestseller lists, where it has remained for two weeks.

"Every day, the publishers would ring and say: 'We're going to do another 50,000'," says Truss. "When it first started taking off, I was rigid with fear. The adrenalin was horrible. If someone wrote an email saying it couldn't happen to a nicer person, I would just sit and weep.

"When you are a child, you imagine this kind of thing. But when you are grown up, you know it doesn't happen. People ask if it is like my wildest dream. Not at all. I have not had dreams like that since I was 13. I don't know how to deal with it at all."

Next month, the print run will reach 540,000, and in the spring, the book will be published in America - by which time, Truss could be feeding her cats caviar.

Although Lynne Truss has spent more of her adult life as one half of a couple than as a singleton, the image of her as a badly dressed, spinsterish cat lover who finds men an inconvenience persists. This is entirely her own fault. At the end of a long-term relationship with a man who loved making a drama out of a crisis, she started to write columns of crazy humour about the single life, then turned the material into a book: Making the Cat Laugh. She was only thirty-something at the time, but managed to make herself sound menopausally dotty.

So, when Robert McCrum, the Observer's literary editor, said the other day that he hoped poor Lynne's personal life would improve as a result of her hitting the jackpot, he can't have been alone. Truss was indignant. "I find that arrogant and patronising."

She's irked by the get-a-life brigade. What's wrong with her life? "I am really happy. And I was happy in relationships as well. I am very glad I didn't have children. I like being master of my own destiny. When you have children in common with somebody, you cannot extricate yourself. And I like to be able to extricate myself."

The reason she resents being pitied is that, on big, personal issues, she has always acted decisively. From the age of 18 to 30, while she was working towards her First in English and making her career in the bookish branch of journalism, she lived with her boyfriend. Suddenly, she cut loose. "Something traumatic happened when I hit 30. I felt desperately that this wasn't good and couldn't be for ever. It was a massive effort to leave and I've always felt very bad about it."

There were patches of living alone, then co-habiting, before she embarked on something in between: a five-year love affair with a man (unattached, big house) who lived in Yorkshire - from Brighton, a journey of 275 miles, door-to-door. "It was fantastic; always party time. We were always so pleased to see each other. I used to cry every time he drove off and every time I left him. But, no, it wasn't quite real."

It took the early death of her elder sister, Kay, from lung cancer to make her realise that, once again, she would be better off on her own. "You need someone who is absolutely there for you, and I couldn't ask him because we didn't have that kind of relationship. I just thought: this isn't good enough."

At the same time, she chucked in her star job as a humorous sports columnist on a national newspaper - and, with it, a regular income. Being sent all over the world, doing the "funny stuff", as if she were the archetypal sport-ignorant female, had begun to jar as Kay became more and more ill. "She needed help. I went with her to quite a few appointments, but my job kept me away from her a lot and I felt very guilty that, even when she was obviously dying, I was at Euro 2000, phoning rather than being there. I think I gave up far too late. After she died, I went quiet for about three years."

But the sisters, seven years apart, had not been close before Kay's illness and Truss admits that Kay was jealous of her prominence - the big shows, the picture bylines. "She would say: 'People keep telling me you're in the paper.' She didn't like it. Brutally frankly, I'm glad she's not seeing what's happening at the moment. This may be an ungenerous thing to say, but I know she would have hated it.

"Kay was the good-looking one and very aware of it. She dressed well for every occasion and was terribly well groomed - lovely hair and nails. Everybody else felt inadequate." At her funeral, Truss found that most of Kay's friends didn't even know of her younger sister's existence. "So, she wasn't going round being proud of me."

Then, as now, Truss was frightened of provoking jealousy. It's what makes her so insanely cautious about the book's success one minute, and giddy with repressed excitement the next. "Assuming that this money really happens," she says, "I don't want to buy things - I want to travel with it. Go to the South Seas or something [there's a book brewing about the Cook voyages].

"If they sell every copy, it will be £750,000. But they will hold back quite a lot. Even so, it could easily be £500,000. So, I shall have to watch out for gigolos!

"Gigolos will be queueing at my door. But they will have to win my heart with a uni-ball II and a striped Post-it note."


 The Editor's View

John Jenkins' monthly column from Writers' Forum magazine

 Zero Tolerance on Punctuation

Dreary but Clean Pierre. . .

Hands off our Emma

NOTHING is more irritating than careless punctuation and worst of the culprits is the writer who sprinkles them in like confetti regardless of style, grammar or even common sense. You may think that apostrophes are the main source of annoyance. It all depends on your point of view.

Many years ago, when children had to read aloud, the rules were simple: you paused for a count of one for a comma, two for a semi-colon, three for a colon and four for a full stop. That seemed simple enough and for years it served me well.

Well enough until I learned that different publications adopted different styles, long and short.

In one you put commas around subordinate clauses thus: An elderly woman, who three years ago had a lung removed, dived into Poole harbour yesterday to save a boy from drowning. Simple. But another paper would insist that these commas were unnecessary and would not have them. It’s not a question of right or wrong, just one of style.

Both versions make admirable sense.

Easily the best book on the subject is a recent volume by Lynne Truss: Eats, Shoots and Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation published by Profile Books at £9.99. (ISBN 1-86197-612-7). She quotes some wonderful examples where the positioning of a comma alters the sense.

Consider the following.

Verily, I say unto thee, This day thou shalt be with me in paradise and

Verily I say unto thee this day, Thou shalt be with me in paradise.

Hence, I believe, that commas should only be used when they are essential to the meaning. Or as I prefer to write. Hence I believe that commas should only be used when they are essential to the meaning.

You will recall that Peter Carey won the Booker prize a few years ago with a book which did not contain a single comma. Oscar Wilde could and did spend a day on deciding whether to put a comma into a poem.

Lawyers don’t like them in legal documents and a famous Chief Sub Editor was also of the no-comma school, once berating a poor sub editor for wanting to put extra commas in a proof he was correcting.

I once parted with hard-earned cash for a creative writing course, but left after the fourth session when the tutor spent an hour on the use of the semi-colon.

For some reason he did not believe me when I told him that the semi-colon was a 16th century invention by Aldus Manutius, a printer in Venice. He also invented the italic typeface and his name is still in use today.

Of course there is a hangover from the Sixties that punctuation and spelling matter not at all. Really?

Try this:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman: without her man is nothing.

‘Nuff said.

OUR BOOKER prize winner has not gone down too well in the United States. The August New York Times (all the news that’s fit to print) is distinctly sniffy. The title of the winner was Vernon God Little by the oddly named conman Dirty But Clean Pierre.

"Given the novel’s clumsy contrivance and its dogged reliance on insulting American stereotypes, that assessment probably says more about British attitudes towards the United States than about literary tastes."

Hang about NYT, Pierre, Clean or Dirty, is not British. He claims to be more Tex-Mex than British. And the Booker judges are not infallible. The book has struggled up to fourth in our list of best-sellers but is setting no records.

STILL in the Land of the Free (except Guantanamo Bay) there’s a new book out on the infamous McCarthy Communist witch-hunt era that drove many Hollywood personalities out of work and in some cases abroad.

Fortunately that couldn’t happen today, could it? Then why are some Americans demanding a new blacklist to contain the names of stars who have spoken out against the war in Afghanistan and Iraq? Names like Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Sean Penn and Johnny Depp.

Blacklisted: the Film Lover’s Guide to the Hollywood Blacklist by Paul Buhle and David Wagner is published by Palgrave Macmillan at £16.99 (ISBN 1-4039-6145-X).

FAY WELDON has considerable talent and I don’t mind too much if she writes an outrageously commercial novel based on a product to make a buck. After all, she was an advertising copywriter.

But her considerable talent is minuscule compared with Monsieur Flaubert who wrote one of the great books of all time in Madame Bovary. Flighty Fay has re-done MB for the stage and despite Amanda Drew’s wonderful performance at the Lyric, Hammersmith as Emma, the whole thing comes across as subtle as an Emmerdale storyline told by Relate.

It would be difficult to think of anybody who could successfully translate MB to the stage. John Mortimer, perhaps?

John Jenkins, Publisher                     





The New York Times


Janet Maslin

Hark, Abused Punctuation: This Writer Feels...

The New Zealand Herald


Philip Hensher

Lynne Truss: Eats, shoots and leaves

Star Tribune


Sthephen Wilbers

Itses, commas, spirited rants

Book Page


Lynn Green

Waging war on sloppy punctuation

The Christian S. Monitor


Ruth Walker

Don't lapse into a comma

The Globe and Mail



What is this thing called, love?

The New York Times


Edmund Morris

Punctuation and It's Discontents

The Boston Globe


Mary Ambrose

     The well-tempered sentence

The Seattle Times


Michael Upchurch

"Eats, shoots and leaves": Having fun...

The Washington Post


Michael Dirda

A punctuation purist's bible storms...

The Observer


Robert McCrum

'I used to feel intimidated. Not any more'


Read these articles here                            



The New Yorker


Louis Menand

Bad comma



Timothy Noah

Reads, Chortles, & Smirks

The Guardian


John Mullan

The war of the commas

The Daily Telegraph


Lynne Truss

You poor thing...


Read these articles here