Reading Room: Eats Shoots & Leaves

I just finished the delightfully written book Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

As I write the key take-aways from this book, I am in utter fear of multiple punctuation errors. While I am pulling some of the key points of this book, any simple summary does the book an injustice. The examples included are sublime and I strongly believe that this book should be required reading in all English-speaking high schools. I know that had I read it, I might actually have enjoyed learning about punctuation!

Apostrophes Rules:

  1. The following words are possessive and never require an apostrophe: my, your, his, her, its, our, your, their, mine, yours, his, hers, ours, yours, theirs.
  2. An apostrophe is used to indicate a possessive in a singular noun: The girl’s lunch. However there are two sub-rules:
    • When the possessor is plural but doesn’t end in an ‘s’, the apostrophe comes before the ‘s’. Example: The children’s school.
    • When the possessor is a regular plural, the apostrophe follows the ‘s’. Example: The twins’ class.
  3. An apostrophe can indicate a time or quantity. Example: In two week’s time. (Note from an American: I believe that this is more a British usage than an American usage of an apostrophe)
  4. An apostrophe is used to indicate the omission of figures in dates. Example: ┬áThe summer of ’69.
  5. An apostrophe can indicate the plural of letters. Example: How many e’s are in your name?
  6. An apostrophe is also used to indicate the plural of words. Example: What are the do’s and dont’s?

A couple of tricky areas – names that end in ‘s’. With modern names that end in ‘s’, an ‘s’ is required after the apostrophe. Example: Russ’s. The one exception to this is if the name ends in an ‘iz’ sound, then there is no ‘s’ after the apostrophe. Example: Denis’.

However with ancient names, it is not. Example: Achilles’.

I will continue on with summarizing this book in the next installments of Reading Room. Up next…commas!

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One Response to Reading Room: Eats Shoots & Leaves

  1. Aya says:

    The possessive asortpophe is on its way out of the English language. As a composition teacher, I keep teaching it, but I often find it omitted not only from my students’ papers and online texts, but also from billboards hovering over US highways.Hard-copy publishers repeatedly demonstrate lower editing standards, so even if print practices somehow still set the standard, less and less is there a standard within print to govern practices outside of it.We can prescribe grammar all we want, but descriptively, we have to admit that language changes even when we don’t want it to.Nonetheless, I appreciate your noble efforts.

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