Have You Eaten Grandma? Or, the Life-Saving Importance of Correct Punctuation, Grammar and Good English – Gyles Brandreth – Atria Books – Published 13 August 2019 (first pub 2018)




Our language is changing, literary levels are declining, and our grasp of grammar is at a crisis point. From commas to colons, apostrophes to adverbs, there are countless ways we can make mistakes when writing or speaking. But do not despair! Great Britain’s most popular grammar guru has created the ultimate modern manual for English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

In this brilliantly funny and accessible guide to proper punctuation and so much more, Gyles Brandreth explores the linguistic horrors of our times, tells us what we’ve been doing wrong and shows us how, in the future, we can get it right every time. Covering everything from dangling participles to transitive verbs, from age-old conundrums like “lay” vs. “lie,” to the confounding influences of social media on our everyday language, Have You Eaten Grandma? is an endlessly useful and entertaining resource for all.

My thoughts

In the same vein as Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, Have You Eaten Grandma? plays on the importance of grammar and punctuation, even in today’s social media and technology-driven world, with a comprehensive and humorous layout of all the rules, memory devices, and tips and tricks you’ll need to master the power of the English language.

Chapter one, ‘Basic Punctuation or Have You Eaten Grandma?’, begins the foray into punctuation, followed by ‘Dashes, Hyphens, Slashes and more’, and ‘Apostrophes, Possession and Omission’. Brandreth also covers spelling in this book, with common (and sometimes less than helpful) rules, guides to prefixes and silent letters. There are also chapters on British English versus American English, abbreviations with a fresh inclusion of many that are commonly used today and on social media (some with a very humorous twist), slang, and rules for good communication. There are also fun sections that keen wordsmiths will enjoy, such as the A to Z of useful Scrabble words, and new words.

This book is for adult readers. There is a great depth of content which will appeal, I think, to readers who are already interested in language conventions. The book is also wordy (not unexpected) and some of the jokes and language is more suited to a mature audience. That said, it is an easy book to read, pick up a few tips and enjoy. While I read Have You Eaten Grandma? from cover to cover, it will be most useful to me as a handy reference guide. There is so much information and so many tips jam-packed into its pages that I knew there was no way I would remember all the rules or tips. Having it to hand, though, will be helpful when I can’t quite remember whether I should be using effect or affect, or am about to commence a Scrabble tournament. There are also lists to make you blush (euphemisms for sex), cringe (toilet talk), and laugh (public signs that could have used some punctuation).

I love that this book is written for current society and that the author holds to conventional rules and still embraces modern language. From text speech and new abbreviations and initialisations, to the mistakes make in Tweets or statements by past or current politic leaders, as well as the embracing of gender neutral language. My particular favourite is the new ROFL (rolling on floor laughing) for older generations, ROFLACGU (rolling on floor laughing and can’t get up).

Have You Eaten Grandma? is a fun and handy book about the complexities of the English language and the power it holds (it just might save your grandma’s life).

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Non-fiction

Themes: Writing, punctuation, English, grammar, language conventions.

Advisory: References to drugs. Sexual references. Coarse language, f*** (15), sh** (5), bit** (2), Pi** (3).

Published:  13 August 2019 by Atria Books.

Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. 320 pages.

ISBN: 9781982127404

Find it on Goodreads