Did you know that September 24 is recognized annually as National Punctuation Day?

Perhaps you were unaware of this ever-important “holiday.” Jeff Rubin founded National Punctuation Day in 2004 as “a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis.”

Don’t underestimate the power of words and punctuation, especially when it comes to your professional marketing pieces, contracts, signage, websites, and anything that is the face of you or your brand.

Just as design needs to be visually appealing, information needs to be thoughtfully written and most of all, correct in punctuation, spelling, grammar, and messaging. Photos can be pretty, graphics can be sharp, but if the words that go with them contain typos or are misunderstood, then they have lost their meaning and so “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”  (The Captain, Cool Hand Luke, 1967)

Poor or misused punctuation will risk losing your professionalism and trust. A damaged reputation can be costly when evaluating missed opportunities, and even more so when a punctuation error incurs quite a hefty price tag. Just ask a dairy company in Maine whose lack of a comma cost them millions of dollars.

In 2014, a contract concerning a clause about overtime exemptions for drivers used the following phrase:

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

“(1) Agricultural produce;
“(2) Meat and fish products; and
“(3) Perishable foods.”

The lack of a comma after the word “shipment” is where the problem occurred. A judge ruled that the law’s documentation made it unclear if “packing for shipping or distribution” is a singular act or if “packing for shipping” is entirely separate from “distribution.” The fact that the dairy company had intended for “distribution” to be a separate item on the list no longer mattered. The lack of that comma portrayed ambiguity and the drivers were awarded overtime pay, forcing the company to settle to the tune of 5 million dollars. Ouch.

Extreme cases such as this are an obvious argument for the value of proofreading, but even the smallest mistakes can risk the integrity of your business. From its inception, Zoltun Design has held a high regard for such tasks. Our staff includes proofreaders, writers, and editors who work as an integral part of every stage of the project cycle to ensure your final product is the cleanest and most successful representation of your brand.

Visit zoltun.com or contact us at rick@zoltun.com to learn more about our services and the professional polish that can add value to your future projects.

Written by Casey Clark & Adele Del Greco