Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Comma comedy costs a bundle

An extra comma in a 14-page contract is costing a telphone company a million dollars (Canadian). It's a prime example of why you should listen very carefully when your teacher explains grammar. A key line from today's story in the New York Times:
Citing the "rules of punctuation," Canada's telecommunications regulator recently ruled that the comma allowed Bell Aliant to end its five-year agreement with Rogers [Communications, of Toronto] at any time with notice.
The costly comma occurs in a 57-word sentence that was intended to make the contract a five-year deal that was renewable for five years at a time unless one side or the other gave a year's notice. See if you can tell why it's not working that way. Here's the sentence in question:
Subject to the termination provisions of this Agreement, this Agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice by either party.
If you're registered, you can read the story here.

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