Thank the Grammar Police For This Dismissed Parking Ticket
If you ever wondered if spelling, grammar, and punctuation were really important, the answer is yes. Not only will using them make you look halfway literate, it will make law enforcing just that much easier.
You have to be a smooth talker in order to talk your way out of paying a parking ticket on a grammar-cality. Andrea Cammelleri, then, must be one smooth talker.
It’s a Comma Mistake
In Ohio, there are certain types of things that cannot be parked for more than 24 hours in certain spots. The village thought that Cammelleri’s pickup truck was one of those things that could not be parked where she chose. That is why they so happily provided her with a ticket when she failed to follow the whole ‘don’t park here for more than 24 hours’ law that they thought was so clear.
They were apparently wrong–both in that Cammelleri’s truck was not one of the vehicles that made the don’t park here list, and because the law was not as clear as they had assumed.
The reason they thought that Cammelleri was illegally parked was because a pickup truck is a motor vehicle and the way the village reads the law in question, motor vehicles were included in the list of covered things. However, they were missing one vital piece of information to make that assumption true: a comma.
If you have ever gotten into a debate about commas (this is a real thing that happens all the time when you are a writer and/or editor), then you will be happy to know that the debate has finally found its way to court with a definitive, legal answer.
What the law actually says is that motor vehicle campers could not park in the spot for that long. What exactly is a motor vehicle camper? A fancy term for RV? Or just a long way to say camper?
Cammelleri said that she wasn’t sure what it was, but she knew here truck wasn’t one. Therefore that ticket she got for illegally parking should be tossed.
The village had a different argument. Come on, they told the court. It’s pretty obvious we meant to say “motor vehicle, camper” and not “motor vehicle camper.” This woman’s just trying to weasel out of paying up. Let’s just fine her, and use the money to fix the law. (Okay. That last part was completely editorialized.)
Who did the court side with? If you read the headline, and I am assuming you must have in order to have gotten here, then you already know the answer. The court sided with Cammelleri.
Why? They ruled that while contextually the law might be understandable, technically it could be read both ways. If they want the court to interpret the law the way the village does, then they better go change it to be both contextually and technically right. Otherwise, they should start saving their parking tickets for illegally parked motor vehicle campers, whatever those might be.
Proofread or Lose Money
What can you learn from the forgotten comma? If you want to get paid, you better proofread. Otherwise, you miss losing more money than a Macy’s mispriced mailer.