Punctuation and Parens

When you are using parens for the insertion of a blurb — e.g., (indicating) — the rule is as follows:

When the information inside the parens is the entire thought, it is capped, and the
punctuation goes inside; when the information inside the parens is part of a larger
thought, it is lowercase, and the punctuation goes outside.

…Q     Where was your arm bruised?
…A      (Indicating).

…Q     Where was your arm bruised?
…A      Right here (indicating).

Happy punctuating!


“You Had to Be There” and the Word “Again”

There are some words that you just have to hear in context to know the correct  punctuation. Such is the case with the word again.

If the word again begins a sentence, it is a conjunctive adverb, and it has a comma after it.

…Again, I need to ask you to wait until I finish my question.
…We called late in the day; again, we were told he was not in.

When the word again comes in the middle of a sentence, it is either an adverb, in which
case it takes no punctuation, or it is a parenthetical, and it takes commas around it. The
only way to tell is my intonation.

If it is included in the sentence with no pause or change in tone, it is an adverb.  If it is
said with pauses around it and a change in the timbre of the voice, it takes commas
around it. (And there is really no way for me to indicate this here in print.)

…We were again reminded of the fragility of life. (No pause, no change in voice)
…We were, again, reminded of the fragility of life. (Pause on either side, change in voice)

After the word and, again needs two commas or no commas. A comma on either side of
it is not correct.

…And again, I want to emphasize this. (It is just wrong!)
…And, again I want to emphasize this. (Wrong again!)

…And again I want to emphasize this.
…And, again, I want to emphasize this.

Happy punctuating!


A Dash or a Hyphen?

Just a quick note to get some terminology cleared up:

The dash in formal English is a long mark, called the “em” dash, that is flush against the word on either side. In court reporting, back in the “carbon paper days,” we had only a typewriter, and it did not have the em dash, the long mark. So we decided to use two hyphens to represent the dash.

And because we used a monofont, where everything sort of looks the same in terms of lettering, we began to use a space on either side of the two hyphens so that this “dash” would not be missed.

This “space hyphen hyphen space” is one dash in reporting. It is NOT “dashes.” The question “Do I need dashes there?” is not worded correctly. It should be “Do I need a dash there?” And we use the same mark whether it is used to show an interruption or is used to mark a grammar issue.

…He was on his way to — on the road to…
…The company initiated this program to — this research to find out about…

…The incident was near my house — the car crash.
…That’s what I want to know — how you intend to accomplish this.

The hyphen, of course, is a single mark that we use to tie words together into a single unit.

Be careful with your terminology. Be accurate with your terminology.

Happy punctuating!



Words in the Middle of the Year

When a year is interrupted by a word or two, the English rule says to write out the number
in words. That is always the fallback position. However, as always in reporting, numbers
written in words do not always serve us well.

Let’s perhaps consider a new way to do it.

…during 19-, maybe, -98…
…after 19-, probably, -63…

I think this is easily readable and, at the same time, accurately reflects what was said.

The “2000” interruption is a bit more problematic. If we use only the first two digits, it doesn’t really look like “2000.”

Here is, then, a suggestion, though there may be others that work.

…during 2000-, maybe, -9…
…after 2000-, probably, -5…

Happy punctuating!


Sequential References

A sequential reference is a number that is part of a series of numbers, which usually follows the word that designates what the number is referring to. We consider a number
to be “sequential” when it is in a series. If you live in Apartment 5, there is an assumption that there are Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4. This is a sequential reference.

…It was Check 304 in the amount of $100.
…The office is in Building 5.
…We will mark this as Exhibit 38.

The word that designates what the number refers to is capped with the
exception of the words page, line, paragraph, verse, and size.

…She can now wear a size 12.
…It appears at the bottom of page 5.
…I am reading from paragraph 14.

…How did he get the chance to appear on Channel 5?
…Please refer to Chapter 12.
…It was Section 3.

Use figures for all sequential references.

Even without the descriptive word, a sequential number is in figures.

…It is 4515 on the top of the page.
…I believe it is in 19, the chapter on contracts.
…She lived in 105, if I am not mistaken.

If the word number is used before the figure, “No.” is used except at the beginning of the sentence, where the word is written out. “Nos.” is used for the plural.

…It is Figure No. 150.
…She showed us No. 15451.
…Number 15 has been marked.

Happy punctuating!



Two Spaces or One?

There is one space after a period and a colon when you are using a variable font; there are
two spaces after a period and colon when you are using a monofont. In reporting, we
generally use a monofont.

The two spaces before the ZIP is an affectation and was never part of the formal language.
The ZIP has one space in front of it and never has a comma in front of it.

…in Whittier, California 90601…
…in Whittier 90601…

Happy punctuating!


If You Do Not Have the Document…

If someone is reading from a document and you do NOT have that document to look at
when you are preparing your transcript, you are not going to insert any quotes. There are
a couple of ways to handle this.

If the material is lengthy, it should be blocked according to the format used in your area.
The words [Reading] or [As read] can be inserted in front of the material that was read to indicate that someone was reading.

If the material is short, it should simply be included in the sentences.

Happy punctuating!


The Comma of Omission

There is a rule for commas called the “comma of omission.” There are two parts to the

1. When two sentences are parallel and have no conjunction between them, they are joined by a semicolon. When the verb is left out of the second one, use a comma to show the verb is missing.

…John earned $4,000; June earned $6,000.
…John earned $4,000; June, $6,000.

…I left at 5:00; my husband left at 5:30.
…I left at 5:00; my husband, at 5:30.

2. When two dependent elements would be linked by a coordinate conjunction but the conjunction is left out, use a comma between the elements to separate them. (This does
not apply to independent clauses.)

…I looked for it in the garage and in the house.
…I looked for it in the garage, in the house.

…She was driving northbound on Palm and turned left at the corner.
…She was driving northbound on Palm, turned left at the corner.

Happy punctuating!