The creator of the punctuation guide Eats, Shoots Leaves told The TES:
"There just isn't enough emphasis on writing in the school system. Not enough correcting of errors; not enough enthusing about the mechanics of language."
Ms Truss, who has written Eats, Shoots Leaves: why, commas really do make a difference!, a 16-page illustrated version of her bestseller aimed at primary pupils, said: "I think getting children to notice punctuation is a big moment in their reading. Exams just test how well kids have absorbed their textbooks."
This was echoed by Tom Wickson, English teacher at pound;23,625-a-year Harrow school.
Harrow sixth-formers are being given remedial spelling lessons, after one in eight failed a basic literacy test. Many pupils with A-grades at GCSE could not spell simple words or punctuate simple sentences. Mr Wickson said: "Simple technical accuracy is not prized as highly as it once was."
Ms Truss's new book includes the now-famous joke, told in the original version, in which a panda walks into a cafe, eats a sandwich, whips out a pistol and fires two shots in the air, then departs. By way of explanation, he points to a poorly punctuated passage in a nature manual: "Panda," it reads. "Large black-and-white mammal. Eats, shoots and leaves."
The primary version, though, reflects fears about gun crime in schools: instead of drawing a pistol, the sandwich-loving panda brandishes a bow and arrow.
NEWS 5 talkback 19