I'm very curious how important proper punctuation is to agency owners. I'm sure it's important to most agencies that the transcripts they send out look as good as they can, including accurancy and proper punctuation. But we all know there are varying and conflicting punctuationrules out there. Do you hope that your reporters can back up their punctuation with a rule? Or does it not matter?

We are faced with ever-changing rules, conflicting rules in different books, scopists and proofreaders who don't always know the rules, teaching our scopists and proofreaders to follow the rules or our "style" of punctuation.

We are representing you when we send our transcripts out. Does it matter to you that some basics aren't followed, like:

1. Comma before a coordinating conjunction (FANBOY) when it's between two independent clauses.
2. Semicolon between them if either clause has a comma within it.
3. Periods or semicolons between two ind. clauses that don't have a coord. conj.
4. Commas around restrictive clauses.
5. Commas around interjections (that is, for example, in other words, you know, etc.)
6. Dashes (not commas) to show an interruption in thought.
7. Resiting the urge to place a comma somewhere because it "feels" right.

And some other non-punctuation preferences like gluing people's names together so they don't become separated on two lines, spelling out numbers at the beginning of sentences if it's three words or less, etc.

Do you expect your reporters to know most basic punctuation rules? Or do you feel there are too many conflicting rules and styles out there to even bother worrying about it or bother your reporters with it?

Would you tend to not use a reporter again if you saw they didn't follow basic rules in their transcripts?

Do you assume most of your clients wouldn't know if the punctuation is right or not?

So how important is proper punctuation? Is it a dead art form that has completely left our profession for good? Has churning out the pages become more important than worrying about the subtle nuances the right punctuation can bring to a transcript?

Basically, am I driving myself crazy for nothing trying to follow the fules?

Thanks for any and all opinions. And, please, no harsh words in this thread. I know some people feel very strongly about punctuation and doing a good job, but let's be professional.

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Do you assume most of your clients wouldn't know if the punctuation is right or not?


Have you ever seen any of the work that most attorneys and/or their secretaries put out and think it's correct punctuation or maybe even a work of art? One -- of several -- of the family lawyers I've hired over the past several years tried to generate a declaration for me to sign. Eegads. It was so poorly constructed, I had to completely redo all of his work. I learned to write my own declarations and let them cut and paste.

First off, Marla, congratulations!! I understand you got married.

Second off, that is a loaded question. Bottom line - yes, it is important. One comma or period can change the meaning of the question entirely. It may be going a little too far to have to remember ALL the rules, but having the basic knowledge of sentence structure, comma rules, understanding semicolons, etc., is important. Margie Wakeman-Wells's seminars are "the bomb." She gives great tips on what is most critical. But trying to keep the record "readable" and make sense, you're bound to break some of the rules.

But I wouldn't angst over it too much. As you know, consistency is key.

In my past experience by using proofreaders, everybody punctuates differently, so I basically punctuate how it is spoken, and of course I hope I'm using the general correct punctuation in all the other areas. By using different proofreaders in the past I had found myself always questioning myself if I have it punctuatedI correctly. When I first started reporting I had the owner, who was excellent on her punctuation and followed all the rules and would pull the book out to show me, change my puctuation. My defense was because of the way the speaker was speaking is why I put the commas and/or dash where I did. In the long run, even though she was correct, my opinion is it changed the way the person was speaking. I feel as a court reporter we need to know how to use the basic rules but also we need to puctuate the way they speak.
Hi, Marla. And congratulations to you!

I think everyone knows that I feel very strongly about producing a good product, which includes punctuation. I am big on consistency, consistency, consistency. Yes, I do expect reporters to know the rules and apply them to their transcripts. Having a good proofer who knows the rules has helped me tremendously in my own transcripts. I feel it is the reporter's job to make the deposition read smoothly, not clean up the attorney, but putting in the proper punctuation so it can be more understandable. Leaving out a comma can change the whole meaning of the answer. As an agency owner and one who prides myself on my work, I appreciate someone who cares about their work product. Those are the reporters we like to use over and over.

Hi Marla,

Basically I like to see punctuation used to communicate what is being said in the depo, other than that I don't pay much attention to it. My concerns before punctuation are accuracy and spelling. The client really doesn't notice unless the punctuation changes the meaning of what is being said. As someone else said, it is unusual for the client or secretary to know the rules of punctuation anyway. I have only come across one secretary educated in the area and she didn't really care one way or the other as long as the spelling was accurate.

Great questions. The short answer is "yes" to all questions listed in 1-7. It does matter. Following those punctuation rules meant passing or not passing the CSR test in California. Those standards were set not only for the test, but also to be followed as a working reporter. As you know, punctuation can completely change the content of what was stated.

All of the items you listed in your blog are items I find important and do adhere to when preparing transcripts. It's part of your job, as a professional court reporter, to put out an accurate product, which should include proper punctuation. If a reporter submits a transcript that is deficient in the areas you outlined, I will forward a correction list and require the transcript be changed. If a reporter submits subpar work and has a negative response to the suggested corrections and advice to use a proofreader, I will not use that reporter again.

And I have had that happen, but thankfully one a few times. I have gotten mixed responses to suggested corrections which include:
"I'll fix it and send the corrections right away. Thanks for catching that."
(Great response. This is someone who cares about the work they are putting out.)

"The agency I do most of my work for doesn't want us using a lot of punctuation."
(Hard to believe, but anything's possible. Noted the agency that was cited. Looks like she'll be better off continuing to work for that agency.)

"How dare you tell me how to do my work. Don't ever call me to take a job for you again."
(Wrong answer. Of course I wouldn't call her again and would inform everyone I know not to call her as well.)

Putting out the extra effort to punctuate correctly is part of the job. Be consistent. Don't drive yourself too "crazy." Margie Wakeman-Wells is a good resource if you're needing a refresher.

Keep up the struggle.
I'll look for a rule for you, but I wouldn't put a comma before it. "As well" is the same as "also," and I wouldn't put a comma before "also," either. That is, unless it started the sentence, i.e., "Also, I wanted to..."

You should post this in the punctuation group. Click here.
I agree with Marla. The meaning of "as well" in that sentence is "also." So you can use Morson's Rule 55. A comma would ever proceed it at the end of a sentence.
Hi, Pat. I have forwarded this to my proofer who has a Master's in English. She's great at knowing the rules. I'll let you know what she says. I say no comma before "as well" even though it means "also." Some transcripts are so hard to read with too many commas, but I would definitely put a comma before "also." I don't remember why, but I just remember learning years ago to always put a comma before "also."
Rosemary, that may be a carryover from using a comma before "too." That has fallen out of fashion, but there are people who still use it. I stopped using the comma before "too" nearly 20 yrs ago. I don't think I've ever used it before "also."

I wouldn't use a comma before "as well" because I think the meaning is clear. It's only those of us who analyze every single word who might read it in terms of quality rather than just a tag-along phrase.
I am so glad to read this thread, as it reinforces my punctuation paranoia.

I agree with "too" and "as well" when they fall at the end of sentences: NO COMMAS!

Working for a variety of clients and entities, I have to utilize different transcript formats and punctuation styles.

Commas are my biggest stumbling blocks. I would love to see a rule about this one below as it pertains to the word "but":


A. We went to the store, but, in the thick of it, we decided to buy apples.
B. We went to the store, but in the thick of it, we decided to buy apples.

A. We went to the store but decided to buy apples.
B. We went to the store, but decided to buy apples.

Which one is right or wrong, and why?

Another comma stumbling block for me is the word "So" at the beginning of a sentence.

My best friend puts a comma after every single "So" at the beginning of a sentence. I do sometimes, but I do not every single time.


A. So, as I braced myself, I went to the store and bought apples.
B. So I went to the store and bought apples.

A. So we decided to buy apples.
B. So, we decided to buy apples.

A. So, hesitantly, we decided to buy apples.
B. So hesitantly, we decided to buy apples.

Which is right or wrong, and why?
New English may not care, but "so" is on the list of Morson's "no commas." I still sometimes write it in because I "hear" it, but I generally take it out because it looks so dated. I wouldn't fault anyone for leaving it in -- I'm not a blind follower of Morson's. :)


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