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Eat, shoot leave able to punctuate

Lynne Truss, bestselling author and professional pedant, has said that children are being let down by schools' failure to correct their grammatical errors.

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

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