Commas Count in Ohio Court

Ms Cammelleri was not about to let this disrespect to a comma go without a fight, so she took her case to the appellate court level, before Judge Hendrickson.

He agreed the intent of the ordinance was clear with or without a comma.

But, Hendrickson cited the Bible of many editors, the Chicago Manual of Style (16th Ed.2010), and ruled “according to ordinary grammar rules, items in a series are normally separated by commas.”

“In order to interpret the ordinance in the way the village suggests, prohibiting parking either a motor vehicle or a camper upon a street in the village for over 24 hours, a comma must be inserted between the phrase ‘motor vehicle’ and the word ‘camper.’ However, no such comma exists. According to the rules of grammar, ‘motor vehicle camper’ is one item.”

Here’s the kicker that shows this is more than a case of a cranky judge who likes commas.

He pointed to the case of Karder Mach. Co. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. to show there is such a thing as a “motor vehicle camper,” which Ms. Cammelleri’s Ford pickup certainly is not.

She did her homework, too. Cammelleri testified when she typed "motor vehicle camper" into an Internet search engine, the result was pages of recreational vehicles.

Try it for yourself.

“A motor vehicle camper is a vehicle propelled or drawn by power other than muscular power equipped for camping,” Hendrickson decided.

“In line with this definition, a motor vehicle camper could be a type of motor home equipped for camping that is self-propelled by an engine, a type of trailer equipped for camping that is drawn by a truck or other motor vehicle, or a truck or other motor vehicle equipped for camping by placement of an attachment onto the vehicle itself.”

Judge Hendrickson ruled, “Judgment reversed, Cammelleri's conviction is vacated, and Cammelleri is hereby discharged.”

Ms. Cammelleri vindicated. West Jefferson Village officials embarrassed.

But they should not feel too bad. It is easy to make a mistake by adding too many commas or leaving a critical comma out.

The West Jefferson Village typo could have been worse.

Imagine the embarrassment of Ottawa County, Mich., officials when they realized the letter “L” was missing from the word “public” on November 2006 absentee election ballots.

It cost $40,000 to reprint 170,000 ballots, the Associated Press reported.

Some of the ballots were mailed out before the changes could be made. If they decided to hold on to them rather than vote, thousands of people in Ottawa County could be in possession of a real political collector’s item.