Thursday, October 09, 2008

I rest my case

I've been known to be a bit of a stickler when it comes to grammar, typos, punctuation, etc.

No, really, it's true.

So imagine my glee when I stumbled across the story of the $2.1mm comma. Yep, one superfluous comma cost a company over two million dollars.

This is how it went down:
A Canadian communications company made a renewable deal with a strategic partner; the key clause in the deal stated that the agreement “shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.”

Lo and behold, not even three years after signing the deal, the partner gave written notice it was terminating the agreement. Communciations company cried foul—we've locked in our rate for five years from the signing date! But no... eighteen months of sentence parsing later and the judge ruled: that second (do you see it?) comma clearly allows for the agreement to be terminated at any point with one year's written notice. Ah, if only...

Never underestimate the importance of grammar (or a good editor, for that matter).

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