Commas Matter

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Commas People. They Matter.
Written by Lawrence Kroll, October 2016

Lawyers are frequently portrayed as making things overly complicated. People complain we sit at our desks and worry about making things as complicated as possible. Lawyers are seen as “picky” and too concerned over how things are written. One of the reasons why we are always so “picky” is because it is all too easy to interpret things, such as contracts, differently. When that happens, people usually end up in Court. I thought it would be a good idea to show how adding or subtracting a simple comma in a phrase could completely change or confuse the meaning the author intended to convey. So, I did a simple search for “why are commas important.”

Before you complain that an attorney is nit-picking, read the following two sentences:

“I want to eat kids;” and “I want to eat, kids.” Take out the comma, and a family dinner turns into a cannibalistic nightmare.

It turns out I am not the first person to have this idea. Indeed, I am probably not even in the top thousand! Try it-do a search for “why are commas important.”

When an attorney spends hours reviewing a document or contract, it is not just to spend your money. The placement of a comma or a word can have significant impact on the meaning of a legal document. Multiply that by all the words, sentences, paragraphs and clauses in even a straightforward commercial contract, and you can understand why it can take as long as it does to draft and review a contract.

After all, you do not want to eat the kids.