If there's ever an excuse to admire the real-life power of a comma, this might be it. Apparently, the misuse of the tiny punctuation mark in a contract is going to cost Rogers Communications in Canada $2,130,000. From The Globe and Mail:
"Based on the rules of punctuation," the comma in question "allows for the termination of the [contract] at any time, without cause, upon one-year's written notice," the regulator said. Rogers was dumbfounded. The company said it never would have signed a contract to use roughly 91,000 utility poles that could be cancelled on such short notice. Its lawyers tried in vain to argue the intent of the deal trumped the significance of a comma.
And while Lynne Truss, 6th grade language arts teachers and Grammar Nazis the world over are probably nodding their heads with glee, as a notorious breaker of laws (grammar laws) the situation makes me quiver.
Of course, it also reminds me of my favorite grammar comedy bit of all time, badly paraphrased from stand-up Anthony Clark's old routine: "Everyone's talking about Watergate and Whitewatergate and Travelgate. But do you know what the real conspiracy is? Conjugate. And do you know who the victims are? I am. You are. He is. She is. We are. They are"¦"