A book called Eats, Shoots and Leaves, whose title shows what damage can be done by a misplaced comma, has been the surprise hit of the season in Britain, where it has sold half a million copies since early November. Gotham Books promptly preempted it here, planning to rush it out next spring. The deal was made by Gotham chief Bill Shinker and associate editor Erin Moore, who got North American rights from agent George Lucas at Carlisle & Company, acting for British publisher Profile Books. The author is Lynne Truss, who has a popular BBC radio show based on the theory that correct punctuation usage is heading rapidly downhill under the joint influence of sloppy journalism, TV and Internet messaging. Her book, subtitled "The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation," is full of spry and witty examples of the utterly changed meanings produced by minor punctuation shifts; we're watching our commas more closely as a result.