Truss, Lynne 1955(?)–
Truss, Lynne 1955(?)–
Born c. 1955.
Home—Brighton, England. Agent—David Higham Associates, 5-8 Lower John St., Golden Square, London W1F 9HA, England.
Journalist and novelist. Listener magazine, literary editor, 1986-90; Times, London, England, television critic and sports columnist; Daily Mail, London, critic; Sunday Times, London, book reviewer. Host of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio-4 series Cutting a Dash. Member of judging panel, Asham awards, 2005-06.
Named Columnist of the Year, 1996, for articles in Women's Journal; University College London fellowship, 2004; Book of the Year designation, British Book Awards, 2004, for Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
Making the Cat Laugh: One Woman's Journal of Single Life on the Margins, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1995.
Tennyson and His Circle (biography), NPG (London, England), 1999.
Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today; or, Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door, Gotham Books (New York, NY), 2005, published as Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of Everyday Life (or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door), Profile Books (London, England), 2005.
The Lynne Truss Treasury: Columns and Three Comic Novels, Gotham Books (New York, NY), 2005.
A Certain Age (radio drama), Profile (London, England), 2007.
A Certain Age Volume 2: The Men's Monologues (audiobook), BBC Audiobooks (London, England), 2007.
Author of numerous comedies, dramas, and other features for BBC Radio, including Acropolis Now, Full Circle, and Inspector Steine. Contributor to Glued to the Gogglebox: Fifty Years of British Television with Freeze-Frames, Checkmate (Liverpool, England), 2003.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Why, Commas Really DO Make a Difference! (adapted from her adult book of the same title), illustrated by Bonnie Timmons, Putnam (New York, NY), 2006.
The Girl's Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can't Manage without Apostrophes!, illustrated by Bonnie Timmons, Putnam (New York, NY), 2007.
Twenty-odd Ducks: Why, Every Punctuation Mark Counts!, illustrated by Bonnie Timmons, Putnam (New York, NY), 2008.
With One Lousy Free Packet of Seed, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1994.
Tennyson's Gift, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1996.
Going Loco, Review (London, England), 1999.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves was adapted for audiocassette by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio.
Even when Lynne Truss was a little girl, she enjoyed writing. One of her first stories, a fairy tale written at age nine, began with the dialogue: "So your the wicked witch." When a sister read the story, her first comment was that Truss should have written "you're," not "your." The mistake, Truss told USA Today interviewer Bob Minzesheimer, left the future writer feeling "humiliated. I never finished that story, but I certainly learned the difference between your and you're." The lesson stayed with her; nearly thirty years later, Truss's love of proper grammar led to her to publish the international best seller Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
A journalist, critic, and novelist, Truss has reviewed books and television programs, and written about sports for the London Times. She is also well known to thousands of listeners of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)'s Radio-4 due to her dramas and comic monologues, and she has had modest success as a novelist. It was while writing a radio program about punctuation that Truss "realized I did care, quite strongly, about these things," as she later told Bryan Alexander for People. Her little book on grammar, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, has become an international best seller, selling millions of copies in both Great Britain and the United States and inspiring a series of related books for children.
The title Eats, Shoots and Leaves refers to a joke: a panda walks into a café, eats a sandwich, then shoots an arrow into the air. When a man asks why, the panda throws him a badly punctuated nature guide and tells him to look it up. The entry for panda includes the line: "Eats, shoots and leaves." The extra comma completely changes the meaning of the sentence from a description of the panda's diet to one of a violent action. In Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Truss traces the history of punctuation marks like the comma, apostrophe, and semicolon. She argues that paying attention to punctuation is not being a stickler; in fact, doing so ensures correct communication. Her humor enlivens the book throughout, especially in her examples of how missing punctuation can completely change a sentence's meaning.
In 2006, Truss produced a version of her bestselling book for children, titled Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Why, Commas Really DO Make a Difference! In addition to the title example, Truss gives several other amusing instances of how a comma can make a difference.
Cartoons help illustrate the divergent meanings of "Slow, children crossing" and "Slow children crossing." Although adapting her grammar guide for children may not seem like a natural fit, "it proves very effective, thanks to entertaining repackaging that narrows the original's broad purview to the comma," according to Jennifer Mattson in Booklist. A Kirkus Reviews critic likewise found the book to be a "clever, creative commentary on commas," adding that "the witty sentences increase in complexity (and hilarity)."
In The Girl's Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can't Manage without Apostrophes! Truss focuses on the power of the apostrophe, as in the difference between "those smelly things are my brother's" and "those smelly things are my brothers." "Many of the 13 scenarios successfully find the sweet spot between kid-pleasing goofiness and perfect clarity of purpose," Jennifer Mattson remarked in Booklist. A Kirkus Reviews critic commented that "some sentence pairs are whimsical while others are laugh-out-loud funny, but the entire text is easy to understand" when combined with Bonnie Timmon's illustrations. The book gives kids "wordplay or ‘grammarplay’ at its finest," according to Jennifer Cogan in School Library Journal. A third child-friendly guide, Twenty-odd Ducks: Why, Every Punctuation Mark Counts!, includes punctuation marks ranging from the hyphen to parentheses, quotation marks, and periods, again showing how one little change in notation can make a world of difference in meaning.
Truss continues to try to improve people's grammar, both through her books and by creating podcasts for use in classrooms. As she told Alexander, "I feel responsible for making others notice" poor grammar, even if it means taking a marker to badly punctuated shop signs. With her humor, she is likely to keep making converts. As Elizabeth Austin wrote in Washington Monthly, Truss "is a smart, engaging, perceptive, high-spirited, and paralyzingly funny writer."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 23, 2004, "Truss Colonises the World," p. 15; June 1, 2004, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Ap-proach to Punctuation, p. 1681; September 1, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Why, Commas Really DO Make a Difference, p. 132; July 1, 2007, Mattson, review of The Girl's Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can't Manage without Apostrophes!, p. 53.
Boston Globe, March 21, 2004, Jan Freeman, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, p. C3.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2006, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!, p. 639; June 15, 2007, review of The Girl's Like Spaghetti.
Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2004, John Rechy, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, p. R5.
Newsweek, April 12, 2004, Elise Soukup, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, p. 12.
New Yorker, June 28, 2004, Louis Menand, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, p. 102.
New York Times Book Review, April 25, 2004, Edmund Morris, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, p. 7.
People, May 17, 2004, Bryan Alexander, interview with Truss, p. 53.
Publishers Weekly, November 29, 2004, John F. Baker, "Punctuation Princess Back," p. 8.
Reviewer's Bookwatch, November, 2004, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
School Library Journal, August, 2004, Susan H. Woodcock, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, p. 147; July, 2007, Jennifer Cogan, review of The Girl's Like Spaghetti, p. 95.
Spectator, December 6, 2003, Philip Hensher, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, p. 44; January 10, 2004, Benedict le Vay, "Pluck Truss and Grieve," p. 22.
Time, May 24, 2004, Christopher Porterfield, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, p. 83.
USA Today, August 8, 2006, Bob Minzesheimer, "‘Eats, Shoots, Leaves’ Spelled out for Kids," p. 5D.
Washington Monthly, December, 2005, Elizabeth Austin, "Missed Manners: Lynne Truss Thinks People Are Getting Ruder. She Can Shove It," p. 42.
Washington Post, May 23, 2004, Michael Dirda, review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, p. T15.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves Web site, http://www.eatsshootsandleaves.com/ (October 28, 2008).