If, like me, you cringe at the sight of the misplaced apostrophe and other grammatical ‘nasties’, then Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a ‘must-read’ for you.
Lynne Truss offers us her ‘Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation’ as an antidote to ignorance and indifference in the use and application of full stops, commas, question marks and more.
Full of rich and ridiculous examples of how the meaning of the English language can be distorted by the misuse, over-use and lack of use of correct punctuation, this is a hugely entertaining read.
Why the title?
So thoughtfully and wittily written, if you haven’t already come across it, I commend this book to you!
Find iton Goodreads and check out what other people have to say.
Some find it too preachy, but then I suspect that they’re not grammar gurus or punctuation pendants like me. I mean, who else kicks up a fuss in a Chinese chippy late at night at the sight of baked potatoe’s on the menu? Oh, really? You do? Good for you!
Written by Joe Moran, professor of English and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University and author of ‘Armchair Nation: An Intimate History of Britain in Front of the Television’.
Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd
Orwell advised cutting as many words as possible, Woolf found energy in verbs, and Baldwin aimed for ‘a sentence as clean as a bone’. What can we learn from celebrated authors about the art of writing well?
Every writer, of school age and older, is in the sentences game. The sentence is our writing commons, the shared ground where all writers walk. A poet writes in sentences, and so does the unsung author who came up with “Items trapped in doors cause delays”. The sentence is the Ur-unit, the core material, the granular element that must be got right or nothing will be right. For James Baldwin, the only goal was “to write a sentence as clean as a bone”.
What can celebrated writers teach the rest of us about the art of writing a great sentence? A common piece of writing advice is to make your sentences plain, unadorned and invisible. George Orwell gave this piece of advice its epigram: “Good prose is like a windowpane.” A reader should notice the words no more than someone looking through glass notices the glass.
Except that you do notice the glass. Picture an English window in 1946, when Orwell wrote that sentence. It would be smeared with grime from smoke and coal dust and, since houses were damp and windows single-glazed, wont to mist and ice over. The glass might still be cracked from air-raid gunfire or bombs, or covered with shatterproof coating to protect people from flying shards. An odd metaphor to use, then, for clear writing.
If you want to become a better writer, become a better editor.
If you want to become a better editor, edit work that is not your own.
I recently joined a local writers’ group and was requested to comment on various extracts from group members completed and in-progress work. I quickly found a number of recommendations I could make for improvement, but what came as a bit of a surprise, was when I went back and started editing some of my own work, I found exactly the same things there. One common mistake is using names too frequently when a pronoun would suffice.
Reading a blog post from Cristian Mihai in The Art of Blogging, earlier this week reminded how useful I’ve found this little book over the years. Most recently, when I was doing a spot of editing for my good friend, Paul English, whose latest book, “Fire Angel: Turning Point” from his ‘Fire Angel Universe’ series, is just out now.
Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” was first introduced to me by the wonderful Ursula K. Le Guin (sadly no longer with us), in her excellent book on story writing: “Steering the Craft”, which was a huge help to me early on in my writing life.