Commas, typos, confused words, text alignment

Commas can cost money
I have always known that commas in the wrong place can cost money, but didn’t have an example. Then I found the following case, which though not new (2006) illustrates the power of the comma.

Question: What difference does the second comma make in the following sentence?
Answer: About one million Canadian dollars.

‘This agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.’

The contract was between cable company Rogers Communications and telephone company Bell Aliant, who sought to get out of the deal.

Canada’s telecommunications regulator ruled in Bell Aliant’s favour, saying the second comma should have been omitted if the contract was meant to last at least five years.

Rogers Communications appealed and the decision was overturned because the French version of the contract had a different statement that clarified the issue.


Someone discovered a typo on my online grammar website and emailed me to tell me I had no credibility. I don’t like typos and quickly corrected it, but I no longer spend weeks beating myself up over every typo I make. And the following publishing howlers cheered me up:

  • Zagat released its latest restaurant guide with ‘San Francsico’ on the spine.
  • Two years ago Penguin Books told readers to add ‘freshly ground black people’  in a recipe for tagliatelle.
  • Last year a sentence in Susan Andersen’s romance novel, Baby, I’m Yours, became unromantic with one wrong letter: ‘He stiffened for a moment but then she felt his muscles loosen as he shitted on the ground.’

Read the Guardian article at

New online writing program – 100 Commonly Confused Words
My latest online writing program, 100 Commonly Confused Words, is now available at

It covers words such as effect/affect, dependent/dependant, its/it’s, deserts/desserts, advice/advise and 95 other pairs or triplets (there, their, they’re).

Normally $29.95, it’s now only $15 until the end of October with the promo code: owt010dbi

The discount shows on the PayPal payment page.


Free book – Manage your Writing, by Kenneth W. Davis
The author says: ‘This guide consists of thirteen chapters, covering twelve steps in the writing process. Each of these twelve steps can be thought of as taking five minutes in a typical one-hour writing job. Therefore, they are numbered from 12 to 12, like the numbers on the face of a clock.’

Best twitter feeds
Time magazine names 140 best twitter feeds in the following categories:

  • Authors (e.g. R.L Stine, Jennifer Weiner, Maureen Johnson)
  • Business (e.g. Paul La Monica, Dan Primack, Heidi N. Moore)
  • Celebrities (e.g. Neil Patrick Harris, Alyssa Milano, Felicia Day)
  • Comedians (e.g. Patton Oswalt, John Hodgman, Aziz Ansari)
  • Companies (e.g. H&R Block, Comcast, Instant Netflix)
  • Fictional characters (e.g. Tracy Jordan, Jerk Superman, Drunk Hulk)
  • Health and science (e.g. New York Academy of Sciences, Atul Gawande, Steve      Silberman)
  • News feeds (e.g. José Afonso Furtado, Martyn Williams, Blake Hounshell)
  • Politicians (e.g. Anthony Weiner, Harry Reid, Chuck Grassley)
  • Pundits and commentators (e.g. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ezra Klein, Baratunde Thurston)
  • Satire (e.g. Agent Smith, Pour Me Coffee, Princess Diana)
  • Shopping and coupons (e.g., DealDivine, MomsWhoSave)
  • Sports (e.g. Old Hoss Radbourn, Eric Stangel, Dara Torres)
  • Technology (e.g. Rafat Ali, Beth Blecherman, Xeni Jardin)

Andy Borowitz received the most votes by Time readers.

Read the full list at

Reader’s question

Question: In formal business writing should text be fully justified or right-ragged?

Answer: You choose – my preference is right-ragged because fully justified text can end up with large spaces between words.

The government style manual says: ‘In terms of readability, there is little difference between unjustified text and carefully formatted justified text. In fact, most readers will not notice until asked, and then their preference is usually for justified text because it looks “neater”.

‘In spite of this, unjustified text is generally recommended because there is no completely satisfactory typesetting program for desktop production that automatically produces justified text with even word spacing. Preparation of satisfactorily justified text requires a considerable amount of design and editorial intervention.’ (p.335)

Quote of the month
‘A period has the unblinking finality of a red light; the comma is a flashing yellow light that asks us only to slow down; and the semicolon is a stop sign that tells us to ease gradually to a halt, before gradually starting up again.’
Pico Iyer, British-born essayist and novelist


online grammar
Copyright © 2020 All Rights Reserved

Design by mel andersonWordPress website audit by The WP Guy