English Proofreading
For Lawyers, By Lawyers

A misplaced comma can be expensive!


In an 1872 attempt to recover America’s post-Civil-War economy, Ulysses S. Grant’s administration passed a tariff act that imposed a 20 percent tax on most foreign imports. 

There were some exceptions, the bill said, including “fruit, plants tropical and semi-tropical for the purpose of cultivation.” 

The problem? The bill was only supposed to exempt “fruit-plants,” not fruit AND plants as that stray comma implied. 

When importers took advantage and insisted that their fruit should pass into the country tax-free as the letter of the law decreed, the government was forced to refund roughly $2 million in duties—or about $40 million by today’s standards.

AND this, friends, why weproofread.it is an essential service!


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