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These Dairy Drivers Just Won In Court Because Of A Comma

No one really pays attention to punctuation do they? This company probably wishes they did because two dairy drivers from Maine just won a court case based on a comma.

What's even better is you're probably making the same mistake the company did.

Milk Truck
Twitter

At issue is something called the Oxford Comma. That's the comma that comes before "and" in a list. It keeps the meanings of the subjects of a list separate. For example:

"I like cheese, chips, chocolate and steak."

That might be how you list some of your favorite foods, and you probably don't mean that you like chocolate AND steak, you likely mean chocolate as well as steak.

The Oxford Comma edition would look like this:

"I like cheese, chips, chocolate, and steak."

It looks weird doesn't it?

Oxford Comma
Mashable

Many of us were taught that we use commas to separate items of a list, but not before the word "and". We should just use common sense, but the Oxford comma leaves no doubt. You like chocolate, and you like steak, but you don't necessarily like chocolate steak.

Back to the dairy drivers.

This is the rule of what activities don't count for overtime as written by the state of Maine:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

  1. Agricultural produce;
  2. Meat and fish product; and
  3. Perishable foods

Look specifically at the "packing for shipment or distribution" part of it. Since there's no comma "packing for shipment or distribution" is one activity, but the state meant to say "packing for shipment and distritbution of."

But what they meant, and what they said are apparently different things according to a judge. And now the dairy drivers can expect a big pay day.

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