Comma Sense: A Fundamental Guide to Punctuation
Richard Lederer, John Shore. St. Martin's Press, $22.95 (140pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34254-8
Lederer has long been one of America's most popular experts on language and grammar, but here he seems to be taking his cue from Lynn Truss in focusing on the ins and outs of commas, semi-colons and the other little dots and dashes that punctuate our writing. Lederer, with writer and editor Shore, tries a bit too hard to convince readers of the importance of good punctuation (""Good punctuation makes for a good life"") and to make the whole business amusing (the period is ""a mark so dinky that farsighted fleas court it""); disquisitions on Seabiscuit and Albert Einstein's hair are distractions rather than entertainments. And all the talk of how the apostrophe is like Jesse James explains less than Lederer's straightforward usage examples, such as the serious differences in meaning between these two sentences: ""The butler stood in the doorway and called the guests names""; ""The butler stood in the doorway and called the guests' names."" Yes, punctuation is important, and the bold-face print for basic rules does make this an easy-to-use guide for the punctuationally perplexed.
Reviewed on: 08/01/2005