This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
Grammatical accuracy is preferred and presumed. However, a construction fair, reasonable and consistent, but involving grammatical inaccuracy, will not yield to a construction more accurately grammatical, but less fair and reasonable.1 On the same principle punctuation may be ignored in order to adopt the more reasonable of two constructions.2 Thus of the words "lien operation and effect," lien is not supposed to be an adjective because no comma follows.3 Still if two constructions are equally probable,4 or other means of ascertaining which meaning was intended are lacking5 punctuation may be resorted to.
14 Carr v. Jones, 29 Wash. 78: 69 Pac. 646.
15 Gregory v. Village of Lake Linden, 136 Mich. 368; 90 X. W. 29.
16 Moody v. Ry., 124 Ala. 195; 26 So. 952; Moore v. Terry, 66 Ark. 393; 50 S. W. 998; Camden v. McCoy, 48 W. Va. 377; 37 S. E. 637; Johnson v. Pugh, 110 Wis. 167; 85 N. W. 641.
17 Baxter v. Camp, 71 Conn. 245; 71 Am. St. Rep. 169; 42 L. R. A. 514; 41 Atl. 803. (Though in a suit by her administrator it might be available as a set off.)
1 Ketchum v. Spurlock, 34 W. Va. 597; 12 S. E. 832.
2 Holmes v. Ins. Co., 98 Fed. 240;
47 L. R. A. 308; 39 C. C. A. 45; Ketchum v. Spurlock, 34 W. Va. 597; 12 S. E. 832.
3 Abbott's Estate, 198 Pa. St. 493;
48 Atl. 435.
4 Joy v. St. Louis, 138 U. S. 1.
5 Ewing v. Burnet, 11 Pet. (U. S.) 41; Armory Mfg. Co. v. Ry., 89 Tex. 419; 59 Am. St. Rep. 65; 37 S. W. 856.
Sec. 1l25. Omissions, errors and surplusage.
Words which are omitted by inadvertance from a written contract may be supplied by construction at law, without resort to reformation if the context shows what words are omitted.1 Thus the omission of a dollar sign may be supplied from a context which shows that money was contracted for, as the number given will be assumed to refer to dollars as units of value.2 So in a promise to pay "twenty-five after date" the surrounding facts may be looked to to show that "days" was the omitted word.3 So figures showing numbers may be used to supply the numbers omitted from the words in the body of the instrument.4 So in a provision, "In case the said party of the first part shall to fully and entirely,"5 the word "fail" may be supplied from a corresponding provision containing the phrase, "to be in default." Errors apparent on the face of the instrument may be corrected at law by construction without resort to equity.6 Thus the context may show that "or" means "and."7 If words or phrases in a contract are without meaning, they may be rejected as surplusage without defeating the contract. Thus abbreviations8 or the sign "etc."9 may be ignored in construction if without meaning.