Here’s How A Misplaced Comma Cost A Company Millions
In many daily correspondences, we’ve grown lax with our grammar and punctuation – after all, autocorrect has our back, and most of the time we’re typing with loose thumbs on the go. When quantifying business deals is on the table; however, the implications of an error in punctuation can be grave.
A recent article discusses a situation that occurred with Maine company Oakhurst Dairy, in which truck drivers brought forth a lawsuit against the company for years of uncompensated work. Maine’s laws did not necessitate overtime for workers whose work involves “the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: 1) agricultural produce; 2) meat and fish products; and 3) perishable foods”. The missing comma after “shipping” opened a legal battle between the truck drivers – a.k.a. distribution workers – and the company. Had the legislation included a comma, it would have been clear that the law excluded people who distribute perishable foods from overtime. Without the comma, however, the case resulted in a $5 million lawsuit.
The grammatical elisions that commas create are not always definitive – particularly in contracts and other documents that tend to favor long clauses. As a result, commas often lead to confusion. However, in a country whose court system relies on text and language, the meaning created by serial commas needs to be as clearly understandable as possible for all parties – workers, companies, and states – to be protected.
Commas and other error-prone punctuation are famous for causing trouble in contracts and legal documents, as well as in advertising and messaging. A misplaced comma can also send the wrong idea to a marketer’s audience. If you’re looking to engage people with clarity, partner with ASTRALCOM. Our comprehensive content marketing services bring transformative business value for brands across industries.