Eats, Shoots & Leaves Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Eats, Shoots & Leaves offers a humorous, yet instructive overview of how punctuation rules play a huge part in our writing language and how today’s society has become overly relaxed about using the right punctuations marks, leaving grammar-concerned people like her frustrated.

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Eats, Shoots & Leaves Summary

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There are many books out there that talk about a multitude of topics. However, there aren’t that many books addressing punctuation marks or the lack of them. Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss talks about the importance of keeping grammar intact in our writing and ensuring that society keeps track of the right punctuation rules.

From periods to commas, exclamation marks, and apostrophes, the author touches base with them all and provides an easy-to-follow guide about grammar rules and punctuation marks. She will teach you how to use them and when, but most importantly, she’ll help you understand where they don’t belong.

Here are three of the most interesting lessons from the book:

  1. The apostrophe can correctly be used in eight ways.
  2. Writers can use commas more or less as they please, as long as they respect the rules of grammar. 
  3. Certain punctuation marks look bad if you overdo them.

If you think you know how to write correctly and express yourself on paper, you’ll want to think again! These lessons will have you reconsider your punctuation marks and get the best out of your writing skills.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves Summary

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Lesson 1: There are 8 correct ways to use apostrophes in a sentence.

A language is like a living organism. It lives and develops with time, it twists and changes every once in a while, and as new people learn it, it alters its structure. However, for the grammar-conscious people out there, it seems that a language is much more than just a way of communicating.

Writing is an activity that must be carried out under certain rules. These rules are set in place by people way before us, and they will exist long before we’re gone, which is why grammar is a sacred concept. The apostrophe seems to be the punctuation mark that people consider the least in their writing.

Essentially, there are only eight correct ways of using the apostrophe: 

  1. For a possessive singular noun 
  2. When you want to tell time or quantity
  3. In the case of omission of figures in dates
  4. To indicate the omission of letters
  5. For non-standard English
  6. For stating Irish names
  7. For plural letters
  8. To indicate plural word forms

For a punctuation fanatic, misplacing apostrophes in conjunctions like “CD’s and Book’s” is a grave act, much like a criminal action in the world of grammar. For this reason, the author wants to shed light on all the proper ways of using apostrophes, while emphasizing the wrong ones too.

Lesson 2: Commas are flexible punctuation marks, yet they too have some rules in place.

Commas are considered volatile punctuation marks, as the author can place them wherever they see fit. They are often used to style up a text and offer a different connotation, so the rules that make this punctuation mark work are flexible. Still, they’re there. 

The author highlights seven rules for using commas:

  1. Enumerating lists 
  2. Conjuncting two sentences
  3. Filling gaps
  4. Pointing direct speech 
  5. Separating an interjection 
  6. For “weak interruptions” (Bracketing commas) 
  7. “Not using them like an idiot” (Author’s choice) 

Now, people aren’t necessarily using these instructions a la carte. But that’s what the author hopes to change. Although commas are flexible, people should still care for these rules and try to keep grammar intact and make use of it in their writing. 

Overusing commas is a violation of at least two rules, one of which is rule seven. However, not using them can also cause a sentence to look like a hard-to-read, infinite accumulation of words. Naturally, you don’t want that either. Just like with everything, we need balance when it comes to commas.

Lesson 3: Don’t overdo the question marks, exclamation marks, and quotations.

Just like with everything else, these three punctuation marks have their limits. However, some writers seem to have a difficult time defining them and we often end up reading papers that overdo them. This is especially true when it comes to exclamation marks.

People and writers sometimes consider that more exclamation marks relate to their message better or get their point across in an exciting way. They overdo these punctuation marks to make the reader pay more attention to the text and interpret the feelings they’re trying to express.

While this is partially true, it also makes the reader interpret it differently and get tired of reading it. The lesson here is: Don’t overuse them! (Here, the exclamation mark had a purpose and made sense). Instead, learn to embrace the period. The simple dot can keep your text easy to read and neat.

When you cut your text into bite-size chunks, it makes it easier for your audience to digest it. In other words, avoid long sentences when you can and keep track of your commas and exclamation marks. Use words to convey sentiments, and rely less on punctuation marks to do it for you.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves Review

Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a non-fiction piece of writing about the importance of using punctuation marks of all types properly and maintaining a high level of grammar in your texts. The book offers a humorous approach to grammar and teaches its readers how to use all the punctuation marks properly, and what to avoid when writing a text. The book is filled with hands-on advice that can help anyone convey their written messages better right away.

Who would I recommend the Eats, Shoots & Leaves summary to?

The 40-year-old grammar and literature professor who is looking for lectures to recommend to their students, the 30-year-old parent who wants to educate their child better and offer a useful book, or the 50-year-old writer and grammar aficionado who is looking for a book to support their point of view.

Last Updated on May 6, 2024

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Maria Deac

While working with my friend Ovi's company SocialBee, I had the good fortune of Maria writing over 200 summaries for us over the course of 18 months. Maria is a professional SEO copywriter, content writer, and social media marketing specialist. When she's not writing or learning more about marketing, she loves to dance and travel all over the world.