Punctuation: the endangered system
by richmondchamber on May 24, 2009A great piece of humour here and, yet, with a serious aim, this little book has become a runaway bestseller overnight and rightly, too.
As author Lynne Truss has explained, there are many people who have little idea of the basics of punctuation. This does not surprise me in the slightest. As an examiner and a forced PGCE learner, I have found scant regard paid to full stops, commas and question marks- and it is getting worse!
However, by far the number one serial offender is the missing apostrophe. The story of the Panda who eats in a restaurant, then shoots the restaurant up and departs is an amusing story with an important message. The placing of punctuation in the wrong place can completely alter the message being conveyed… and at what a cost.
A REVOLUTION IN PUNCTUATION
The book is dedicated to the memory of the striking Bolshevik printers in 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.
We have come a long way in nearly 100 years and the main casualty has been the written word. The ‘shorthand’ I have encountered in the last six years using the Internet is enough to convince me that this book should be compulsory reading in schools. Besides, it is a good read and very funny in places. To sell 50,000 copies in just over a week on release is a great achievement and illustrates the interest proper ways of communication continue to generate and I thank Lynne for that.
It’s true to say that the book makes a powerful case for the preservation of the system of what is interestingly described as ‘printing conventions’. However, this is not a book for pedants but for everyone, including members of the Bar who write lengthy Opinions (like me). It has never surprised me how cross the Judiciary become when they see sloppy legal paperwork. I expect it from solicitors but we must maintain a very high standard at the Bar, even with the infernal Internet and toxic text messages.
Well done, Ms Truss for reminding us of our legal roots… ‘sticklers unite’ she says, ‘you have nothing to lose but your sense of proportion – and arguably you didn’t have much of that to begin with’.
Do look at the end of the book for a fine bibliography – all the usual suspects are there including one B Bryson and ‘Troublesome Words’, and the excellent Philip Howard’s ‘The State of the Language: English observed.’ Lynne Truss has protected our endangered punctuation with panache and rightly raised the communication stakes at the right time.
ISBN: 978-1-59240-2038 or 978-1-84668-035-9
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