Court reporters are not alone in their concern over punctuation, according to a July 2 article in the New York Times. Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., has raised the question whether the period after the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” should actually be a comma.
The original, which is housed at the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C., is faded, and the mark is hard to decipher. While some early copies show a period, others show a comma. “The logic of the sentence moves from the value of individual rights to the importance of government as a tool for protecting those rights,” Allen told the Times. “You lose that connection when the period gets added.”