Monday, April 26, 2004
Dear crazy Ms. Truss,
Jeepers, lady, have you gone totally bonkers? On page 172 of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, your chipper, chirpy handbook for the pathologically meticulous, you recommend punctuating as follows:
4 Though it is less rigorously applied than it used to be, there is a rule that when a noun phrase such as “stainless steel” is used to qualify another noun, it is hyphenated, as “stainless-steel kitchen”. Thus you have corrugated iron, but a corrugated-iron roof. The match has a second half, but lots of second-half excitement. Tom Jones was written in the 18th century, but is an 18th-century novel. The train leaves at seven o’clock; it is the seven-o’clock train.
Therefore, crazy lady who does not practice what she preaches, one has zero tolerance, but a zero-freakin’-hyphen-tolerance approach. Where the bloody blazes is the dang hyphen betwixt “Zero” and “Tolerance” in your stupid title, you daffy bird?!? For shame, Ms. Truss! You prattle on for 200 pages, cheekily admonishing hardscrabble greengrocers for their naïve misuse of typesetters’ marks, and you bungled the title! What’s that they say about judgment by cover? This, after you take Who Framed Roger Rabbit to task for omitting a question mark from its title (or an interrobang, you crazy bat), and you went apeshit on Two Weeks Notice for overlooking a possessive apostrophe.
Man alive, Truss! You launched a bloody crusade against an incorrect title! You ran around slapping apostrophe patches on movie-theater marquees like some unhinged Gotham City villain. And you’ve encouraged your readers to arm themselves with Magic Markers or Wite-Out and, when they spy punctuation peccadilloes, to deface properties public and private for the sake of proper apostrophizing. O.K., you punctilious practitioner of punctuation punctilios, I call bullshit on you. You want renegade copyediting? I hereby announce a goddamn drive-by hyphenation blitz on your irksomely perky-from-too-many-mocha-lattés guidebook. I’m stabbing every single hyphenless dust jacket of your stupid book with my big, black Sharpie, and no Borders or Barnes & Noble security guard will ever catch me, because I wield a marker like a fucking ninja.
Eat, shoot, & leave this, you proofreading harpy.
P.S. While I’ve got your attention, Ms. Truss, I’d like to ask about page 75, where you refer to the Jews of Exodus as “a lot of clever, dandruffy people.” I confess that dry, British humour isn’t really my bag (although, in my book, Benny Hill chasing busty broads with his pants ’round his ankles, in fast-forwarded hyper-speed, is comedy at its finest), but does a dig at the pruritic afflictions of a persecuted people really belong in a book about commas?