The Complete Course for Transcription Newbies

MODULE 3: CORRECT USE OF PUNCTUATION

 

Welcome to Module 3: Correct Use of Punctuation.

Why is punctuation important in transcription?

Punctuation gives meaning to the words.

A transcriber needs to type accurately what the speaker wants to convey.

A punctuation error can often completely change the intended meaning of a sentence or a phrase.

Let’s take a look at the picture below and read the featured article’s subtitle.

Do you think the sentence conveys clearly what it actually means?

What’s missing?

If you had a good laugh after reading the sentence, then you totally get what is missing.

A simple comma can alter the meaning big time.

Read the sentences below, and try to differentiate the meaning of one from the other.

Let’s eat Daddy.

Let’s eat, Daddy.

The first sentence sounds scary. It’s like from a horror movie or something.

In the second sentence, we added a comma after the word “eat,” and the sentence becomes an invitation from someone.

Here’s another example.

The murderer protested his innocence an hour after he was hanged.

Do you think that’s possible?

Can the murderer actually protest his innocence after his death?

That sounds impossible, don’t you think?

To correct the sentence, we place a period after the word “innocence” and a comma after the word “after.”

The murderer protested his innocence. An hour after, he was hanged.

Now let’s take a look at another hilarious example.

The criminal says, “The judge should be hanged.”

In this sentence, the punctuation marks are not correctly used.

We give the correct meaning to that sentence by using the correct punctuation.

“The criminal,” says the judge, “should be hanged.”

Can you see the big difference now if punctuation is not used correctly? It completely changes the meaning of the sentence.

Sometimes punctuation is taken for granted in transcription when, in fact, it plays a huge role.

Using a Period

Rule #1: Always place the period inside the quotation mark.

INCORRECT: She says, “I am holding you in love and giving you strength”.

CORRECT: She says, “I am holding you in love and giving you strength.”

INCORRECT: Watch for the pop-up window with the word “join”.

CORRECT: Watch for the pop-up window with the word “join.”

Rule #2: Place the period outside the single quote.

INCORRECT: The word qi or chi means ‘life force.’

CORRECT:  The word qi or chi means ‘life force’.

Rule #3: If single quotation marks are used inside quotation marks, place the period before the final single quotation mark.

INCORRECT: She told me, “It’s hard for me to say ‘I’m sorry’.”

CORRECT: She told me, “It’s hard for me to say ‘I’m sorry.'”

Rule #4: If a sentence ends with a question mark or exclamation point, the period is omitted.

INCORRECT: Do you watch the TV series Are You Afraid of the Dark?.

CORRECT: Do you watch the TV series Are You Afraid of the Dark?

INCORRECT: One company that ends with an exclamation point like Yahoo! is Yum!.

CORRECT: One company that ends with an exclamation point like Yahoo! is Yum!

Using a Comma

Rule #1: Use a comma after the first digit of a four-digit number.

INCORRECT: My brother sold 5300 copies of his e-book about making money online.

CORRECT: My brother sold 5,300 copies of his e-book about making money online.

Rule #2: A degree or certification shown after a person’s name should be set off with commas.

INCORRECT: The seminar was conducted by Pamela Johnson PhD.

CORRECT: The seminar was conducted by Pamela Johnson, PhD.

Rule #3: When directly addressing someone, it should be set off with commas.

INCORRECT: Lisa thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

CORRECT: Lisa, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

INCORRECT: Thank you Doctor, for taking the time to answer my questions.

CORRECT: Thank you, Doctor, for taking the time to answer my questions.

Rule #4: When a date consists of the day of the month followed by the year, the day of the month should be followed by a comma.

When the day of the week is provided before the month, the day of the week should be followed by a comma.

INCORRECT: I will be out of town on Wednesday October 31 2018.

CORRECT: I will be out of town on Wednesday, October 31, 2018.

Rule #5: Commas should be used to separate geographic elements. The final geographic element should also be followed by a comma when it appears in the middle of a sentence.

INCORRECT: His family relocated to San Francisco California, when he was nine.

CORRECT:  His family relocated to San Francisco, California, when he was nine.

Rule #6: When a noun is modified by more than one adjective, each of which independently modifies the noun, the adjectives should be separated by a comma.

INCORRECT: He has a loving caring mother.

CORRECT: He has a loving, caring mother.

The sentence above means he has a loving and caring mother.

Rule #7: A comma is required when an adjective or adverb is repeated for emphasis.

INCORRECT: It was a very very long speech.

CORRECT: It was a very, very long speech.

Rule #8: A comma is used to set off introductory words to a sentence

INCORRECT: Yes it was a beautiful wedding.

CORRECT: Yes, it was a beautiful wedding.

INCORRECT: No we won’t be attending the party.

CORRECT: No, we won’t be attending the party.

INCORRECT: Honestly I don’t know the answer to that.

CORRECT: Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that.

INCORRECT: In my opinion he was making a huge mistake.

CORRECT: In my opinion, he was making a huge mistake.

Rule #9: Use a comma when a sentence starts with a mild interjection.

INCORRECT: Well thank you for listening to our show.

CORRECT: Well, thank you for listening to our show.

INCORRECT: Oh that’s fabulous.

CORRECT: Oh, that’s fabulous.

Rule #10: An afterthought that follows the main clause can be set off with a comma.

INCORRECT: It was not a good movie to be honest.

CORRECT: It was a good movie, to be honest.

INCORRECT: Take me back to that place please.

CORRECT: Take me back to that place, please.

INCORRECT: We will not go with them however.

CORRECT: We will not go with them, however.

Rule #11: A comma should be used before a question tag. Question tags are the short questions that we put on the end of sentences.

INCORRECT: You don’t believe me do you?

CORRECT: You don’t believe me, do you?

INCORRECT: We are going to take the shortcut right?

CORRECT: We are going to take the shortcut, right?

Rule #12: The trend with labels is to omit the comma.

INCORRECT: David Smith, Jr. is the CEO of the company.

CORRECT: David Smith Jr. is the CEO of the company.

Rule #13: Do not use a comma between the month and the year when they are the only two elements in the date.

INCORRECT: I will be out of town in October, 2018.

CORRECT: I will be out of town in October 2018.

Rule #14: Do not use any commas if conjunctions separate all the items of the series from each other.

INCORRECT: His mother is loving, and caring, and forgiving.

CORRECT: His mother is loving and caring and forgiving.

Rule#15: The phrase “as well as” usually doesn’t regard commas unless it’s part of a non-restricted clause.

INCORRECT: The pineal gland is the source of both serotonin, as well as melatonin.

CORRECT: The pineal gland is the source of both serotonin as well as melatonin.

What is a non-restrictive clause?

It is an adjective clause that adds extra or non-essential information to a sentence. The meaning of the sentence would not change if the clause were to be omitted, or the meaning of the sentence remains the same even if the clause were to be omitted.

Example: Grammatical errors, as well as spelling errors, are distracting to readers.

Rule #16: When a sentence ends with an adverb that is essential to the meaning of the sentence, the adverb should not be set off with a comma.

INCORRECT: I had that same dream, too.

CORRECT: I had that same dream too.

INCORRECT: We decided to travel a bit, instead.

CORRECT: We decided to travel a bit instead.

Rule #17: Non-restrictive information is set off with a comma when the non-restrictive is found within rather than at the end of the sentence, it should be set up with a pair of commas. When the non-restrictive comes at the end of the sentence, only one comma is needed.

INCORRECT: Robert Moss’s first book Urban Guerillas was published when he was 25.

CORRECT: Robert Moss’s first book, Urban Guerillas, was published when he was 25.

(Robert Moss has only one first book.)

Rule #18: Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction that joins two independent clauses.

Independent clauses are those that can stand alone as complete sentences. The most common coordinating conjunctions are “and,” “but,” and “or.” In certain cases, “nor,” “yet,” “so” and “for” act as coordinating conjunctions.  

INCORRECT: Do you want to continue with the Q&A or do you want to move to the lecture?

CORRECT: Do you want to continue with the Q&A, or do you want to move to the lecture?

INCORRECT: She purchased the car but she did not accept the extended warranty.

CORRECT: She purchased the car, but she did not accept the extended warranty.

INCORRECT: Team A put the plan together and team B implemented it.

CORRECT: Team A put the plan together, and team B implemented it.

INCORRECT: I lost my job so I can’t pay my bills.

CORRECT: I lost my job, so I can’t pay my bills.

Rule #19: Do not use a comma before a coordinating conjunction if the sentence contains only one independent clause.

INCORRECT: Team A put the plan together, and implemented it.

CORRECT: Team A put the plan together and implemented it.

Rule #20: If the dependent clause comes before the independent clause, separate it with a comma. A dependent clause, unlike an independent clause, cannot stand on its own as a complete sentence.

INCORRECT: If you are not wearing your eyeglasses you shouldn’t be driving.

CORRECT: If you are not wearing your eyeglasses, you shouldn’t be driving.

INCORRECT: Because of the storm our flight has been canceled.

CORRECT: Because of the storm, our flight has been canceled.

INCORRECT: When the going gets tough the tough gets going.

CORRECT: When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

Rule #21: Use commas to set off expressions that interrupt the sentence flow, expressions like nevertheless, after all, by the way, on the other hand, however, and others.

INCORRECT: I am by the way very anxious about this.

CORRECT: I am, by the way, very anxious about this.

Using a Semicolon

Rule #1: Use a semicolon between two independent clauses linked by transitional expression. For example, accordingly, therefore, nevertheless, however.  

INCORRECT: This is also a very powerful system, therefore we should treat it as something we can deepen.

CORRECT: This is also a very powerful system; therefore, we should treat it as something we can deepen.

Rule #2: Use a semicolon between two independent clauses. (i.e. clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences) when a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so) is not used.

INCORRECT: She is my guide, she is my light.

CORRECT: She is my guide; she is my light.

Using a Colon

Rule #1: Use a column before introducing a list, a formal quotation, or an enumeration.

INCORRECT: These are my favorite genres, funk, punk rock, and reggae.

CORRECT: These are my favorite genres: funk, punk rock, and reggae.

Rule #2: Do not use a colon when the listed items are incorporated in the flow of the sentence.

INCORRECT: My favorite music genres are: funk, punk rock, and reggae.

CORRECT: My favorite music genres are funk, punk rock, and reggae.

Using Quotation Marks

General rule:

A comma or a period is always placed inside the quotation marks.

INCORRECT: His knowledge of Spanish is limited to adios, “goodbye”, and gracias, “thank you”.

CORRECT: His knowledge of Spanish is limited to adios, “goodbye,” and gracias, “thank you.”

Using an Apostrophe

Rule #1: The word it with apostrophe S is the contraction of “it is.” Its without apostrophe is the possessive form of it.

INCORRECT: Its not my time to shine.

CORRECT: It’s not my time to shine.

INCORRECT: It definitely has it’s merits.

CORRECT: It definitely has its merits.

Rule #2: Use an apostrophe to indicate the last two digits of a year.

INCORRECT: He was born in the late 80s.

CORRECT: He was born in the late ‘80s.

Don’t use an apostrophe when referring to a person’s age.

INCORRECT: He is in his 80’s.

Correct: He is in his 80s.

Rule #3: Do not use apostrophes to form a plural noun.

INCORRECT: We have been living there since the 1980’s.

CORRECT: We have been living there since the 1980s.

INCORRECT: She had two PhD’s.

CORRECT: She had two PhDs.

Here’s the exception to the rule. Use an apostrophe when certain abbreviations, letters or words are used as nouns.

EXAMPLES

He got five A’s and three B’s.

Be sure to cross the t’s and dot the i’s.

thanks-you’s

do’s and don’ts

Rule #4: The possessive of a singular noun is formed by adding an apostrophe and an S whether the singular noun ends in s or not.

INCORRECT: Paul is one of Jesus’ disciples.

CORRECT: Paul is one of Jesus’s disciples.

Using a Question Mark

Rule #1: Use a question mark at the end of the sentence when the sentence begins as a statement but contains a question within it.

INCORRECT: It is true, isn’t it? That she gave you the money.

CORRECT: It is true, isn’t it, that she gave you the money?

INCORRECT: You were there, right? When I handed her the money.

CORRECT: You were there, right, when I handed her the money?

Rule #2: Place the question mark outside the final quotation if the entire sentence is a question. Note that what is quoted is not a question.

INCORRECT: Did he say, “Friends, Romans, countrymen?”

CORRECT:  Did he say, “Friends, Romans, countrymen”?

INCORRECT: What is your definition of the word “success?”

CORRECT: What is your definition of the word “success”?

Rule #3: Place the question mark inside the final quotation if a quoted question appears within a question.

INCORRECT: Who asked, “Where is he now”?

CORRECT: Who asked, “Where is he now?”

Rule #4: Use a question mark within the final dash when a sentence contains a dashed expression that is a question.

INCORRECT: She is my sister who — you weren’t expecting that, were you — lives in Europe.

CORRECT: She is my sister who — you weren’t expecting that, were you? — lives in Europe.

Rule #5: When a direct question occurs within a large sentence, it takes a question mark.

INCORRECT: Are you willing to do everything to succeed because I want to help you if you are?

CORRECT: Are you ready to do everything to succeed? because I want to help you if you are.

INCORRECT: Am I doing this because I like it he thought?

CORRECT: Am I doing this because I like it? he thought.

Using a Dash

General Rule:

Use a pair of dash when the speaker suspends but does not cancel the idea in midsentence and then continues the idea.

INCORRECT: I always shop, this may sound strange, at my husband’s store.

CORRECT: I always shop — this may sound strange — at my husband’s store.

INCORRECT: I have often said, if you think I’m lying, you can check the record, that the $500,000 check was fraudulent.

CORRECT: I have often said — if you think I’m lying, you can check the record — that the $500,000 check was fraudulent.

Using a Hyphen

Two or more words that collectively act as an adjective should be hyphenated when they appear immediately before the noun they modify. This helps prevent misreading.

INCORRECT: I have a 12 year old daughter.

CORRECT: I have a 12-year-old daughter.

INCORRECT: We rented a four bedroom apartment.

CORRECT: We rented a four-bedroom apartment.

INCORRECT: My purchase comes with a money back guarantee.

CORRECT: My purchase comes with a money-back guarantee.

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RESOURCES:

The Punctuation Guide

Grammarly

Thought Co