The 5 Most Expensive Grammar Errors of All Time

Never underestimate the value of a correctly placed comma.

5. The Tarrif Act

Much attention is placed when drafting laws, due to the huge implications in their interpretation. In 1872, US lawmakers learned the hard way that proper punctuation is important after the omission of a comma cost the country an amount equivalent to $38.3 million in today's currency. The law in contention was the 13th Tariff Act, which stipulated some import tariffs placed on various commodities. The law stated “fruit, plants tropical and semi-tropical for the purpose of propagation or cultivation” were exempted from importation tariffs. The comma between “fruit” and “plants” was a typing error which gave importers a loophole to evade the tariffs. The law was meant to state “fruit plants, tropical and semi-tropical for the purpose of propagation or cultivation.”

4. Chile Misspelt on the Peso

The Chilean 50 coin Peso has the inscription “Republica De Chile” on its face. However, in 2008, when the government issued new 50 peso coins, the inscriptions bore a typo where “Chile” was indicated as “Chiie.” The coins had been in circulation for some time during which news spread around the world of how the country misspelled its own name on its currency. The embarrassing revelation prompted the government to fire the general manager running the mint which produced the coins as well as several other workers at the Chilean mint.

3. The Mariner 1

The Mariner 1 was the pioneering spacecraft of the NASA Mariner program and had the mission flying by Venus. The spacecraft had cost USD$18.5 million and was launched on July 22, 1962 but soon experienced malfunction in its guidance system and was subsequently destroyed. Later studies established that the system failure may have been attributed to an error in the computer code used and more specifically the omission of a hyphen in the equations. The error was dubbed as “the most expensive hyphen in history.”

2. Mizuho Securities on the Tokyo Stock Exchange

Mizuho Securities Company is an investment banking and securities company located in Tokyo, Japan. In 2005 the multi-million dollar company was involved in an expensive lawsuit with the Tokyo Stock Exchange after Mizuho Securities issued the sale of one share of the staffing company, J-COM for 610,000 yen, but a faulty computer system interpreted it to mean the sale of 610,000 shares for 1 yen each. The error caused Mizuho Securities to incur a loss of about 40.7 billion yen.

1. The CRTC and Rogers

Rogers Inc., a Canadian telecommunications company, incurred a CAD$2.13 million loss after the company’s client, Aliant Inc., canceled a contract the two companies had signed which had awarded Rogers Inc. a five-year contract to place utility poles in the Maritimes. Even after Rogers Inc. tried to seek legal redress, the courts upheld the decision based on a single comma in a statement in the contract.

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