For Want of a Comma, the Case Was Lost: New at Reason

Punctuation matters.

A. Barton Hinkle writes:

"Punctuation Saves Lives," goes the tagline to a meme you might have seen. Above it appear two sentences:

"Let's eat Grandma!"

"Let's eat, Grandma!"

Droll, very droll. But commas are no laughing matter to the Maine company Oakhurst Dairy or to the workers who sued it for unpaid overtime. Ten million dollars might now change hands because of a simple comma—or rather the lack of one.

The case turned on what is known as the serial, or Oxford, comma—the comma that (sometimes) precedes the last item in a series, as in: "Ted bought a house, a car, and a boat."

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