When a missing apostrophe becomes a catastrophe
Nov 4, 2021
One could be forgiven for thinking we live in a post-grammatical world. Who cares whether every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘i’ dotted? Hey, sometimes a slip of the keyboard is even an advantage from the SEO perspective…
But not so fast. Just when you thought it was safe to abandon such foolish notions as accurate use of language, comes a stark reminder, in the form of an Australian legal case, which leaves us in no doubt as to the critical importance of grammatical perfection.
Anthony Zadravic, an Australian estate agent (or real estate agent, to use the Aussie vernacular) now knows, to his cost, the consequences of not checking his grammar.
On the night of 22 October last year, he posted on Facebook that a former employer was 'selling multi million $ (sic) homes in Pearl Beach but can't pay his employees superannuation'. 'Shame on you Stuart!!!’ he continued. ‘2 yrs and still waiting!!!'
He says the post, made at about 10:30pm, was deleted within 12 hours and wasn't capable of defaming his accusers, as was being claimed. The legal costs and court resources required to determine the claim would also be out of all proportion to the interest at stake, he said.
But the New South Wales District Court turned down his application to dismiss the case, pointing to the seriousness of the claims in the post, and finding the alleged defamatory meanings (that the employer might not pay ALL his employees, rather than just specifically Zadravic) reasonably capable of being conveyed. Had he simply placed the apostrophe between the ‘e’ and the ‘s’ of ‘employees’ he would have saved himself a whole lot of trouble!
Judge Judith Gibson heard the estimated cost of the trial was $160,000, rising to $250,000 if senior counsel was retained.
In an age when a social media post can rapidly reach a wider audience than the front page of a national newspaper - and systematically does - serious damage can be inflicted at the push of a send button.
Be in no doubt, words matter - always have done and always will. Don’t leave your public-facing words to chance. Call on the services of a skilled wordsmith for impeccable accuracy, along with a host of other benefits that only strategically conceived, professionally created, content can confer.
Read more about the case here.
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
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