Mind your Comma

Writing is not the easiest task among the many facets of law practice. I’ve never been a fan of grammar nazis, but I came to appreciate these misunderstood souls the moment I joined the legal profession, first as a litigator. Non-lawyers think that the bulk of a litigator’s work consists in personal appearances in court. Lawyers know that litigation is not only about courtroom drama. It is equally about how well lawyers present their arguments in written form.

A few minutes ago, over lunch, I noticed Marnie Tonson’s discussion regarding an AP tweet, here:

It reads: “BREAKING: Dutch military plane carrying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash lands in Eindhoven.” A lonely comma between “crash” and “lands” spells a world of difference. AP didn’t do that. Instead, AP tweaked the language in a subsequent tweet (but only after a few articles, including one from Gawker, that pointed out the error): “CLARIFIES: Dutch military plane carrying Malaysia Airlines bodies lands in Eindhoven.” I guess Lynne Truss would include this illustration should her book (Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation) gets revised.

This is purely for academic discussion. I didn’t plan to spend five minutes on this article. All I wanted to do is save the screen shot for future reference in case there’s a need to illustrate (based on what we, Millenials, understand best, tweets) the importance of minding our commas (or any punctuation mark for that matter). I ended up writing a short article to explain the photo/screen shot (and that there are countless typos and errors in this law blog. All [grammar and punctuation] errors are mine).

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