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Lynne Truss

  • Truly good manners are invisible: they ease the way for others, without drawing attention to themselves.

  • It is no accident that the word 'punctilious' ('attentive to formality or etiquette') comes from the same original root word as punctuation. ... our writing has always been offered in a spirit of helpfulness, to underline meaning and prevent awkward misunderstandings between writer and reader.

  • No matter that you have a PhD and have read all of Henry James twice. If you still persist in writing, 'Good food at it's best,' you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave.

  • There are people who embrace the Oxford comma and people who don't, and I'll just say this: never get between these people when drink has been taken.

  • Nowadays the fashion is against grammatical fussiness. A passage peppered with commas ... smacks simply of no backbone. People who put in all the commas betray themselves as moral weaklings with empty lives and out-of-date reference books.

  • ... semi-colons are dangerously habit-forming. Many writers hooked on semicolons become an embarrassment to their families and friends. Their agents gently remind them, 'George Orwell managed without, you know. And look what happened to Marcel Proust: carry on like this and you're only one step away from a cork-lined room!'

  • Previously, people said 'you know?' and 'know what I'm saying?' at the end of every sentence. Now they don't bother with the words and just use the question marks, to save time. Everything ends up becoming a question? I'm talking about statements? It's getting quite annoying?

  • 'I write quite differently in emails,' people say, with a look of inspired and happy puzzlement — a look formerly associated only with starry-eyed returnees from alien abductions. 'Yes, I write quite differently in emails, especially in the punctuation. I feel it's OK to use dashes all the time, and exclamation marks. And those dot, dot, dot things!'

  • This is an exciting time for the written word: it is adapting to the ascendant medium, which happens to be the most immediate, universal and democratic written medium that has ever existed.

  • ... by tragic historical coincidence a period of abysmal under-educating in literacy has coincided with this unexpected explosion of global self-publishing. Thus people who don't know their apostrophe from their elbow are positively invited to disseminate their writings to anyone on the planet stupid enough to double-click and scroll.

Lynne Truss, English writer, journalist

(1955)