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The devil is in the commas….like usual


While Laura is off and out, I’ve come out of the lurker’s shadows to keep the blog home fires burning. Today, a note on commas and legal writing.

While trying to find justification for uses of the comma in web copy without resorting to ranting and raving, I started with my old trusty print copy of the Chicago Manual of Style. I found the answer I needed, but I couldn’t resist checking the Web for other examples, and ran across the Q & A section of the Manual’s website, which has a few choice items on commas, including:

HELP! I’m arguing with a contract lawyer over this sentence which points to a great clip on a facet of plain language and the Law, “Down with Provided That” from the Michigan Bar Journal. Lawyers fall prey to the same errors and obfuscations that ordinary mortals do, but I think it’s safe to say that their slips of the comma may effect the wallet more than others.

So, be careful out there: commas and their brethren are not as benign as we’d like to believe. Take for example, what could happen if you followed this sign’s lead?

(punctuation added in felt pen)

— thanks to JC for the sign, and the Electric Company, you know why

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