Book Recommendation: Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

22 Dec

Hello, my name is Kat…

(Hi, Kat)

…and I am a Grammar Nazi.

Yes, it’s true. Well, perhaps not in the traditional sense. I make mistakes plenty of times; I certainly break the rules of grammar when style and context call for it; and God forbid I become that guy who mercilessly hounds others for missing a comma (Or…I try not to!). But when all is said and done, I have a great love for those little squiggles and lines that organize our sentences.

So when I found Eats, Shoots, & Leaves, I was in love. It combined my two favorite things–grammar and snark!

How can a grammar lover not adore a book that details “the weapons required in the apostrophe war”? (for those of you interested, the list includes correction fluid, big pens, guerilla-style clothing, strong medication for personality disorder, and a gun)

At the most basic level, Eats, Shoots, & Leaves is a book for teaching grammar. But while I learned one or two new things and had a few more affirmed, if you’re really looking for a nitty-gritty rule-book, I recommend The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Eats, Shoots, & Leaves is so much more.

It details the history of the comma, waxes poetry on the semicolon, and calls the ellipsis “the black hole of punctuation.” And all throughout every page runs the wonderful, never-too-serious voice of the author. This book is anything but dry, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who always wondered about the correct use of an em-dash versus an en-dash.

Oh, and why the title Eats, Shoots, & Leaves?

Here’s the joke:

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

“Why?” asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“Well, I’m a panda,” he says. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation:


“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots, and leaves.”


Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen and spends most of her free time whipping HYBRID–a book about a girl with two souls–into shape for submission to publishers. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.


21 Responses to “Book Recommendation: Eats, Shoots, and Leaves”

  1. Marina December 22, 2010 at 12:55 AM #

    Ah, the comma jokes. Always a plus. I actually really laughed out loud.
    Now, how do you feel about the Oxford comma?

    • Kat Zhang December 22, 2010 at 12:57 AM #

      I love the Oxford comma!! 😀

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio December 22, 2010 at 11:45 AM #

      Oxford comma all the way!

  2. Myra December 22, 2010 at 1:57 AM #

    LOL! Oh, man, I think I’ve read a rec of this before, but this just reminds me that I MUST get it. It sounds fantastic. I remember picking this up in a store and laughing about it with my best friend, who is just as much of a Grammar Nazi as I am. Maybe I’ll get it for him for Christmas. Or for myself. :p

    • Kat Zhang December 22, 2010 at 3:56 AM #

      You should! It’s a great book for Grammar Nuts 🙂

  3. Nicole December 22, 2010 at 3:48 AM #

    Kat, ever read “Woe is I”? Hilarious and useful for grammar questions.

    • Kat Zhang December 22, 2010 at 3:56 AM #

      I haven’t! I’ll go check it out, though 🙂

  4. M. Howalt December 22, 2010 at 5:31 AM #

    Fantastic! I need to have a look at that book. Thank you for mentioning it.
    I don’t know if you know this blog, but being grammatically inclined, I find it very funny/interesting:

    • Kat Zhang December 22, 2010 at 2:23 PM #

      Thanks for the rec. Looking interesting 🙂

      • M. Howalt December 22, 2010 at 4:24 PM #

        You’re welcome! 🙂

  5. Sarah December 22, 2010 at 8:50 AM #

    I love this book! I read it at age twelve and it really helped my writing. My favourite part is possibly the ‘Dear Jack’ letter. 😛

    (Also, it felt great to find somebody else who shakes with impotent rage upon seeing a badly-punctuated sign, hahaha.)

    Anyway, this was another superb recommendation!

    • Kat Zhang December 22, 2010 at 2:24 PM #

      Thanks, Sarah! It’s nice to know we’re not the only ones, right? ;P

  6. Julie Eshbaugh December 22, 2010 at 10:17 AM #

    Though I’ve never even flipped through this book, the cover has made me smile MANY times. I’m a bit nervous to read it now, though, since you mention the author refers to the ellipsis as “the black hole of punctuation.” If that’s what Ms. Truss thinks of the ellipsis, what might she say about my precious DASH! *shrinks in horror at thought of giving up excessive use of the dash* Thanks for the post Kat! If I get up the nerve, I’ll give this book a look!!!

    • Kat Zhang December 22, 2010 at 2:25 PM #

      You should read it, Julie! I love my dash, too. I’m trying to not abuse it as much as I used to (I swear, I used to use more dashes than commas. Every–sentence–was–like–this, haha).

  7. Vanessa Di Gregorio December 22, 2010 at 11:47 AM #

    I love this book SO much. 😀

    • Kat Zhang December 22, 2010 at 2:25 PM #

      Hehe, it’s pretty hilarious, isn’t it?

  8. Savannah J. Foley December 22, 2010 at 6:00 PM #

    I respect your grammar skills so much more after you systematically went through my ms and marked every superfluous comment. ❤

  9. priscillashay December 22, 2010 at 9:52 PM #

    haha. I forwarded this recommendation to one of my professors. You’d be surprised how many college students know very little about grammar.

    • Kat Zhang December 22, 2010 at 11:32 PM #

      Hahaha! cool 😀

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