For many editing and revising are tedious tasks, and people often throw in commas as afterthoughts. However, many disputes stem from interpretation of contracts and laws. As a result, proper punctuation becomes an important aspect of contract writing.
Grammar mistakes in laws caused problems for the United States dating back to 1872 when a misplaced comma, a simple mistake by a typist, cost the United States the modern equivalent of $40 million dollars. The 13th Tariff Act in 1872 accidentally replaced a hyphen with a comma. This cost the United States tax revenue on imported fruits such as bananas, limes, pineapples, lemons, and oranges. It took almost 2 whole years to remedy this mistake, which cost the U.S. 1.3% of its total tariff profits.
In 1872 an extra comma cost roughly $40 million dollars, and more recently a missing comma cost a dairy company $5 million dollars. Many may think the use of an Oxford Comma depends on an author’s style, but the lack of one led to a dairy company in Maine paying four years of overtime pay to their truck drivers.
Proper punctuation can be tedious to figure out, and in the law so much is left up to interpretation that it is important to have all your commas in their proper places. This makes contract drafting a stressful endeavor. Let the attorneys at Day Rettig Martin, P.C. figure out the punctuation for you.
Sources: Tariff Acts Passed by the Congress of the United States from 1789 to 1897; Christina Sterbenz “This Comma Cost America About $40 Million” in Business Insider; Daniel Victor “Oxford Comma Dispute Is Settled as Maine Drivers Get $5 Million” in The New York Times; Chris Stokel-Walker “The Commas That Cost” in BBC