Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Behold the power of the comma

Forgive the absence. I've been out of town. Again. But I have a lot of posts to catch up on. Here's a starter:

A misplaced comma in a Canadian contract could end up costing Rogers Communication more than $2 million.

Rogers was paying Alliant to string its cable lines in the Maritimes for $9.60 a pole. (The going rate is as high as $28.)

The deal was to "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."

It's that last comma that is in question. Rogers said that the companies agreed that only after the initial five-year term would the one-year-notice termination become available. But Alliant tested the waters early. And the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission came down on its side: "Based on the rules of punctuation," the comma "allows for the termination of the [contract] at any time, without cause, upon one-year's written notice," the regulator said.

And so that extra comma gets all the attention. But where's the outrage over the missing hyphen in "five year terms"?


At 11:05 AM, August 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lawyer (or lawyers) wrote the provision--and I'm one of them. If he, she, or they can't get the critical comma-issue correct, do you really expect that he, she, or they will get the hyphen-issue correct? This is why I spend more time monitoring copy-editing blogs than legal blogs. Copy editors, help us!


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