Good grammar is an important part of clear writing. But sometimes grammar experts disagree. For example, they often argue about the Oxford comma. This comma comes before the last item in a list. For example: “She likes peanut butter, jelly, and bananas.” Some people say the second comma in that sentence is not needed. Others disagree. They think deleting the comma makes the meaning unclear. A lawyer recently used this disagreement to win a lawsuit.
A group of milk delivery workers were not being paid to work overtime. A law listed groups of people who should not get overtime. But the law did not use the Oxford comma. The list ended with “packing for shipment or distribution of perishable foods.” The lawyer argued that this phrase was unclear. Did it mean just one item (“packing for shipment or distribution”)? Or was it two items (“packing for shipment” and “distribution of perishable foods.”)? The judge agreed with the delivery drivers. They were awarded about $10 million. So, commas may be a big deal after all.