Missing Oxford Comma Costs Dairy $10 million

By March 20, 2017Language, News

Here at For Reading Addicts we’re often seen promoting the use of proper grammar, but so often we’re told that good grammar doesn’t matter. Well here’s proof it does, as a legal wrangle ends in a $10 million bill for a dairy company, and it’s all over a missing Oxford comma.

For those who don’t know, the Oxford or serial comma is used during lists of items. For instance ‘dogs come in many colours, including black, brown, white, grey, and auburn’. For many years there have been arguments about whether the comma is necessary, but we suspect that Oakhurst Dairy in Maine will be ensuring its inclusion in future after a multi-million dollar court case.

Workers at the dairy decided to sue Oakhurt Dairy because they felt that they should have received overtime pay. Maine state laws says that employers are ineligible for overtime pay if they work in “the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution” of some food products.The workers have successfully argued that the law exempted workers involved in packing for shipment or packing for distribution, rather than exempting both packers and distributors.

Think the Oxford Comma isn’t worth much? Well, this one is worth $10 million as the missing punctuation mark will result in a backdated overtime payment to 75 workers who will split an estimated $10 million! That makes this comma, possibly the most expensive dash of ink every known.

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In Western societies it was as early as the 17th century when hand and finger movements were used to spell out words. The systems have evolved rapidly and now people with hearing impairments have the freedom to communicate as they please. The only disability is when those of us who have no such impairment have, for our shame, not learnt any sign language ourselves…

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