Though I’ve spent over a year writing a non-fiction book -slaving away in Costa Coffee documenting the ups and downs of a 3 1/2 month journey around India – when browsing the shelves of Waterstones or, dare-I-say-it, downloading books onto my kindle, my literary tipple always seems to be fiction.
Despite thinking that my own book it a roflcopter (roll on floor laughing – copter) fest, the genre non-fiction is, for my grey matter, synonymous with heavy-duty, dense, factual and intensely cerebral. Not that I don’t love learning, in fact recently I decided that if I won the lottery I would – along with all the holiday homes, spa days, Michelin star restaurant outings – go back into education. I’d like to do a degree in History, a degree in Creative Writing and learn some more Law.
I digress, though I love learning when browsing bookshelves I am not often drawn to books that impart actual knowledge. No, I am seduced by the allure of fantasy, of escape and dream. Of fiction.
That was, until the grammatical grating of my father, grated one step too far. ‘Alice, that apostrophe is in the wrong place,’ ‘Alice, why have you put a semi-colon there?’ Alice, it should be ‘father,’ not ‘Father.’
He was right of course, though they were small mistakes they were making a big difference. First of all I got defensive, ‘we weren’t taught punctuation properly at school,’ ‘it’s not my fault,’ ‘stop being such a pedant.’ This, I still stand by, the education system does not teach grammar well. We are the lost grammatical generation. I didn’t want to traipse through a gigantic volume and decipher where exactly my comma should go.
I shared my concerns with said father and he introduced me to Lynne Truss’s book Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I haven’t looked back since.
Funny, informative and easy-to-follow, Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a must for all aspiring grammarians. The older we get the more embarrassing it is to be told that we’ve used a colon where a semi-colon was needed, or a comma where a colon was needed. What is even more worrying though, is that people don’t seem to care enough to do something about it. With a full-time job, you can’t expect me to enroll in an evening ‘grammar’ class?
No, you don’t have to. Lynne Truss has given us an alternative. A book that you can read in the secrecy of your own home. A book that isn’t called ‘Grammar for Grown-ups.’ A book that can finally teach you what your teachers failed to teach you.
I can’t recommend Eats, Shoots and Leaves more.