"It's in such peril," sighs Truss, a British broadcaster and author of the wildly funny and informative Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. "It is quite shocking to see the apostrophe scattered about all over the place in such a random way."
Ever since her witty book topped both the British and U.S. best-sellers' lists this year ("a wonderful accident," she claims), Truss has crusaded to keep punctuation from falling into an abyss of illiteracy. "I didn't expect [the book] to sell," says Truss, who once stood outside a London movie theater with a stick in her hand and dared passersby to play a game of Pin the Apostrophe on the Sentence. "I really thought it would end up in the reference section, and people would say, 'It's a book about punctuation, and we'll move on.'"
Blame e-mails and text messages for the crimes against punctuation, says Truss. If you want to show your enthusiasm, string exclamation marks together!!! Emphasize a word? CAPITALIZE it. Stress an entire sentence? PUT THE WHOLE DAMN THING IN CAPS. "It's informal, because of the state most people's English is in," groans Truss. "It's deprived them of a key means to expressing themselves, and that's such a wicked oversight."
But Truss has no plans to become the Queen of Punctuation. Her 209-page tome is all the scolding you'll get from her. If it hasn't saved colons, commas, and, yes, apostrophes from the endangered-species list, she remains "doomy" about the future of literacy. "It's actually a cause to try to save it," she insists. "Or at least point out what good it does, before it goes."