Date finished: 5-13-08
Author: Lynne Truss
A book about punctuation, of all things, its role in the English language and decline in recent years. Truss looks at the history of punctuation marks, discusses their proper use and bemoans their abuse.
Truss has created a delightfully entertaining read here, although likely much of the fun goes over the heads of those who aren’t punctuation sticklers. The rules on the use of the comma, apostrophe and the like are all there, as well as how we got them and why we have them. But don’t expect to be able to use this as a reference book for how to use punctuation. It’s definitely more of a fun read for your favorite grammarian than a help book to keep on your desk.
One of the things I enjoyed most was reading how punctuation differs for the Brits. I knew they spelled words differently, but I had no idea they also had different punctuation rules! Or that they call the period a “full stop” or find the American habit of putting punctuation inside the quote marks to be baffling.
My one real quibble with the whole book was Truss’s obsession with Two Weeks Notice – that fairly innocuous movie with Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock. Truss insists (quite rabidly) that there should be an apostrophe on the end of Weeks. To the point that her author picture shows her about to vandalize a movie poster in order to put it on there. She’s plain wrong on this point. Putting an apostrophe makes it possessive, as in the notice belongs to the two weeks. Which is not the case. “Two weeks” serves to modify notice, but is in no way possessive. So, no, Lynne, there would not be an apostrophe. Here in the states, we tend to avoid this issue by making the second word singular, calling it a two-week notice, which is egregious grammar, but gets around any punctuation issues nicely. (When was the last time you heard anyone ask for a six-feet ladder?) As a stickler myself, I know Truss fully expects someone to disagree with her punctuation guidelines in some way and this was mine.