my grammar could hit the target from that distance

The revolution has begun. No longer will we put up with dodgy speeling, misplaced apostrophes' or improper; punctuation? P.S. pointing out bad grammar in postings is banned. To justify this I'm applying a form of grammatical 'absolute privilege', as the public interest in publishing mistakes far outweighs the cost to the public of making further mistakes. Call me a hypocrite if you will, but it works in Westminster.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Commagain?

"It could be the most costly piece of punctuation in Canada.


A grammatical blunder may force Rogers Communications Inc. to pay an extra $2.13-million to use utility poles in the Maritimes after the placement of a comma in a contract permitted the deal's cancellation.


The controversial comma sent lawyers and telecommunications regulators scrambling for their English textbooks in a bitter 18-month dispute that serves as an expensive reminder of the importance of punctuation.


Rogers thought it had a five-year deal with Aliant Inc. to string Rogers' cable lines across thousands of utility poles in the Maritimes for an annual fee of $9.60 per pole. But early last year, Rogers was informed that the contract was being cancelled and the rates were going up. Impossible, Rogers thought, since its contract was iron-clad until the spring of 2007 and could potentially be renewed for another five years.


Armed with the rules of grammar and punctuation, Aliant disagreed. The construction of a single sentence in the 14-page contract allowed the entire deal to be scrapped with only one-year's notice, the company argued.


Language buffs take note — Page 7 of the contract states: The agreement 'shall 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.'


Rogers' intent in 2002 was to lock into a long-term deal of at least five years. But when regulators with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) parsed the wording, they reached another conclusion.
The validity of the contract and the millions of dollars at stake all came down to one point — the second comma in the sentence.


Had it not been there, the right to cancel wouldn't have applied to the first five years of the contract and Rogers would be protected from the higher rates it now faces.


'Based on the rules of punctuation,' the comma in question 'allows for the termination of the [contract] at any time, without cause, upon one-year's written notice,' the regulator said."



(From the Globe and Mail, via Sam, who emailed it to me - they're all joining in!)

5 Comments:

At 4:00 AM, Blogger Thom said...

Page 7 of the contract states: The agreement 'shall 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.

"five year terms" and "one year prior notice" should also become "five-year" and "one-year" respectively. Compound adjective, y'see.

 
At 3:21 AM, Blogger Geordie said...

I'd say "one year's prior notice", but I take your point.

 
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