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Like an American lecturing the French on sauces

Lynne Truss, the English author who passed through Toronto a few weeks back, has earned a great deal of attention for her quirky cri de coeur on punctuation, Eats, Shoots & Leaves. The book’s massive popularity is a curious thing, since — as some have noted — it seems to appeal mainly to readers who are already wholly familiar with the principles it outlines. As Truss notes herself more than once in Eats, Shoots & Leaves, the people who might benefit the most from whatever grammatical advice she has to offer are also the ones least likely to buy and read the book.

Louis Menand would doubtless argue that they are missing nothing. In a withering review of the book in the latest New Yorker, Menand hoists Truss with her own petard, pointing out the apparently endless grammatical gaucheries on view in her own book. Says Menand: “The supreme peculiarity of this peculiar publishing phenomenon is that the British are less rigid about punctuation and related matters, such as footnote and bibliographic form, than Americans are. An Englishwoman lecturing Americans on semicolons is a little like an American lecturing the French on sauces.”

Related links:
Louis Menand on Eats, Shoots & Leaves