This Saturday is National Punctuation Day in the United States, making this the perfect Writing Wednesday for us to reflect on the importance of punctuation. The mission of the day is, after all, “A celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons and the ever-mysterious ellipsis.”
A few years ago we took a humorous look at ten of the most costly cases of misused punctuation and, while it was a great list, it was by no means complete. So this year we’re adding eight more extreme examples to the list. Hopefully they’ll not only give you a chuckle but caution you against making the same mistakes!
A contract between two Canadian telecommunications companies came into dispute when one party, Aliant Corporation, wished to cancel the contract early. As it turned out, a misplaced comma gave them the right to do so, meaning the other company, Rogers Communications, owed them over $2 million. A 2007 Globe & Mail story gives the full details here.
Too Cheap to Proofread
“Dear John” Example
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy–will you let me be yours?
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Example from: Vappingo
What Kind of Syrup?!
In a case of added commas, rather than missing punctuation, it seems that a volunteer tasked to type up James Joyce’s handwritten Ulysses draft added hundreds of commas Joyce did not intend. The over-zealous editing ended up changing the overall rhythm of the “Eumeaus” section, resulting in costly reprints and heavily edited later editions. A June 1984 edition of the New York Times covered the full story here.
For more on the subject, check out our list of the “3 Most Commonly Misused Punctuation Marks” and get tips on how to “Boost Your Punctuation Game With These Little-Used Marks.”
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