The Virgule in the Middle

Turns out punctuation matters in remodeling, too—particularly when it comes to finances and legal matters

November 02, 2017

That’s not a misspelling in the title. “Virgule” is an actual word for the punctuation mark or slash often placed between two words, such as “pass/fail” or “yes/no.” 

Who cares? What does punctuation have to do with me or my remodeling business? How important could it possibly be? Well, you would be surprised.

Such a punctuation mark has actually found its way onto the payee line of checks, and courts have had to interpret whether the mark means “and” or “or.” There’s a big difference between a check payable to ABC and XYZ, and a check payable to ABC or XYZ. In the first case, both payees must endorse the check; in the second, either one can endorse. 

What the courts have determined is that the virgule is a manifestation of the drawer’s intent to make the instrument alternatively payable—in other words, a virgule is, in essence, a substitute for the word “or.”

Moreover, the Uniform Commercial Code, which is the bible for business transactions, states that, when the issue of a check to more than one payee fails to use the words “and” or “or,” then it is presumed that the check is issued to alternate payees and either one can endorse it. 

Now that you know all this, you may want to eliminate the virgule in the middle and use words that actually convey your intent.

About the Author

About the Author

Patrick Barthet, founded The Barthet Firm, an 11-lawyer construction law firm in Miami, and regularly contributes to construction law blog.

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