Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Picky Punctuation

English teachers might be picky about punctuation, but it never cost a student 2.13-million dollars for a misplaced comma. One company was able to get out of a contract due to one pesky little extra comma that changed the implication of the terms of the contract.

Basically, the additional comma changed the meaning of the sentence that instead of locking the contract for five years, after which it could be cancelled with a one year notice, to saying that the contract could be terminated at any time with a one-year notice. A bit of an error on the part of someone's lawyer.

I just wanted to reiterate the importance of using punctuation properly. While it might not cost you 2.13 million for a mistake, using it correctly will save on potential embarrassment and misunderstanding. Let us recall the Shakespeare passage from a previous post where punctuation made all the difference (and knowing about punctuation makes the passage hilarious).

At least in the legal world punctuation is taken seriously.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yay! They fixed the problem and I can finally comment on your blog!

I know it's not quite grammar but I have a feeling that the numerical cost would be similar.

"Time magazine does know the actual cost of a spelling error. Some years ago Time ran a cover headline reading, 'New Plan for Arms Control.' More than 200,000 covers were printed without the 'r' in the word 'control' before the error was discovered. The presses were stopped, and the error was corrected; putting the 'r' back in 'control' cost the magazine $100,000."

--Wilcox, Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques, 2005. Pearson Education Inc., Boston.