Oxford Comma costs $10 million but Word would not have helped.

The debate about the Oxford Comma continues with news that a Maine company has lost a court case for the lack of a vital extra comma.

Oxford Comma is one of the lesser known grammar checks in Microsoft Word.  Sadly, Word would not have warned of the problem and saved the millions.

The court case turned on this wording in Maine law:

(as it appears in Microsoft Word 2016 for Windows)

In particular, the phrase:

packing for shipment or distribution of

which would have been clearer as:

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packing for shipment, or distribution of

The court decided that the phrase wasn’t clear enough and ordered that around US$10 million of overtime should be paid.

Microsoft Word

Word 2016 for Windows and the Oxford Comma check isn’t perfect.  This case is an example of that.

Turning on the Oxford Comma check does not trigger the blue warning underline.

Even making the first paragraph into a sentence with a fullstop/period doesn’t help. There’s still no ‘Oxford Comma’ warning.

In fact we tried tinkering with the sentence to make the Oxford Comma warning appear — changing ‘or‘ to ‘and‘, removing ‘for shipment‘ etc — no luck.  We’re not sure why Word 2016 for Windows (latest fast build) can’t detect this issue.

The bottom line, as always, don’t rely on Word’s spelling and grammar checks – they are useful but not perfect.