Generally, when an attorney dictates commas, periods, etc., I like to simply put the punctuation in place of the word. It doesn't change the meaning in any way and improves the readability of the transcript.

Recently, an attorney dictated the word "semicolon" from some text he was reading into the record. Now that I'm transcribing, that semicolon is really in such an odd place. I don't think any reporter would use a semicolon at that particular spot. I'm leaning towards writing it out.

What would you do? And thanks!

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Semicolons drive me nuts. I do not use them very often, but I have seen many transcripts that have ten-plus semicolons on every single page. When I read the newspaper, a book, or a magazine, I don't see nearly as many semicolons as I do in transcripts.

That said, if you are transcribing STRICT dictation, then I would say to leave the semicolon in. I work for other companies that, in my opinion, have oddball style formats. However, since they are paying my invoice, then I will transcribe it EXACTLY the way they want it, even when in some cases I believe it to be dead wrong.

One more thing, if the attorney is quoting written text that has the semicolon, then I think you should put the semicolon in, whether it is right or wrong. Even if you had the prerogative to "clean it up," I do not think you should eliminate a semicolon if it was, indeed, in the quoted text.


The rules of QUOTES - is you translate them exactly the way it is done - whether you like it or not - because it's a QUOTE - it is a repeat of exactly what someone said. The quote gives the person's character. It fits into a completely different category. It doesn't matter if it's right or wrong - it's a QUOTE.

If you change wording - or punctuation - it does change meaning - because it is a quote; and if you change it, it is no longer a quote.

QUOTE: Sasha says she has'ta eat leftovers from people's trash.
Right: Sasha says she has'ta eat leftovers from people's trash.
Wrong: Sasha says she has to eat leftovers from people's trash.

QUOTE: Alright, you know, I like it that way to.
Right: Alright, you know, I like it that way to.
Wrong; All right. You know, I like it that way too.

You leave it out, and that attorney checks the transcript from the quote, and you change it, you don't want to make him angry.
Evidently, I didn't get my point across very well. My question had to do with whether I should write the word "semicolon" out or insert it as a the punctuation symbol, not leave it out!

Like I said, I usually use the symbol in my transcripts when the attorney dictates the punctuation. In this case, he dictated the semicolon when reading from text. The semicolon used improperly. So my question is whether I should write the word "semicolon" or just use the punctuation symbol, as I normally do.
LOL! In a word, symbol.
All of this over a little old semicolon!
I think Mary Jo and I both may have misunderstood what you were asking.

Like everything in this industry, there sometimes is no right and wrong.

That said, if a lawyer is dictating something and he is not in a deposition or court setting, I am pretty sure he would not want the punctuation words typed out and would prefer to see the symbol in print. This is only my opinion, though.

If he is reading a document in a deposition or court setting, I may be inclined to type the word "semicolon."

Does this help? I hope so. :-)
Thanks, Mary Joe and Jennie. The jury was out, but now it's in: I'm leaving the word "semicolon" in. :)
Ruth, more often than not, I will use words:

Q: Reading that first paragraph there, which says, "First," comma, "you must give us your name," semicolon, "your address," semicolon, "and your full social security number," dash, "not just the last four numbers or a summary," parens, "2448," did you choose to include your full social security number, or did you summarize?

Occasionally I will use the symbols, but the above is more my style.

I use the symbols. Attorneys are used to dictating for their secretaries and they need to include the punctuation. It's meant as a help in the transcription.
When attorneys have dictated the actual punctuation in, I've always felt it was for the benefit of the reporter. And I'll state again that using the punctuation symbols versus the word makes for a more readable transcript (just my opinion).

However, Mary Ann, I do believe yours is a more exact style, probably the most correct.

You both make great points. Either style, I would think, is acceptable.
Hi, Ruth. You know, sometimes when attys dictate that punctuation, they kind of catch themselves and look over and smile, kind of shrug their shoulders, like, "Hey, I'm used to dictating this for my secretary - sorry!" It's comical sometimes!

But, yes, symbols DO make for a more readable transcript. Ruth, giving full credit to reporters who absolutely, positively believe that they must follow a written rule in an authoritative book on punctuation and capitalization style ... that's very fine, and they can devote their time to getting it absolutely grammatically correct by someone's style rules ... I think reading over the boards -- all of them! -- your words ring true in that there may be one and only one hard-and-fast rule for being absolutely book-right ... but many styles are acceptable.

That's why this forum is so great! Love the feedback, Mary Ann.

As long as we're consistent (well, correctly consistent), that's the main thing.

Okay, more food for thought: I had what I thought was an excellent English teacher while in court reporting school, and I approached him at one point and asked him how he would address usage of commas in the following sentence:

Did you, yourself, see the accident?

He actually said he would research it and get back with me. His conclusion was that there should be commas placed around the word "yourself" in the example above because it is renaming. (He actually probably had a much better explanation.)

All these years later, I have yet to see commas used in that fashion. They are always left out. I'm talking about the newspaper, books, etc. Doesn't mean it's right, but I'm still always a little stumped by that one.


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