Grammatical sleuthing: Best resources for searching in print and online

The JCR recently reached out to NCRA’s Proofreading Advisory Council for recommendations on references for spelling, grammar, and language. Council members shared their favorite print and online resources as well as their best online research tips. The following members shared their responses:

  • Aimee Suhie, RPR, a freelancer in New Fairfield, Conn.
  • Patricia Miller, CRI, CPE, an instructor in Middletown, Del.
  • Francesca Ivy, RPR, a freelancer in Metairie, La.
  • Kathy McHugh, RPR, CRR, a freelancer in Audubon, N.J.

In addition, Kathy McHugh shared a response from Lisa Inverso, who she uses as a scopist.

  1. Which print books/references do you use or like the most for spelling, grammar, language, etc.?

Aimee Suhie: Mary Louise Gilman’s One Word, Two Words, Hyphenated? and her Fairly Familiar Phrases.

Pat Miller: Most use in print and for a spectacular saver of time: Mary Louise Gilman’s One Word, Two Words, Hyphenated? I add to, correct, update the book as I go. I may also make a note or two, highlight words I need to see in print over and over again, and put some words on the front inside cover just because. It is way faster to use this book than to use the internet, which is full of just plain wrong information a lot when it comes to spelling that includes punctuation. If, after the five seconds it takes to use this print reference, I don’t find my answer, then I go to the internet.

When I really need print book guidance for grammar and usage, I use a few books. My favorite for a couple of years has been one recommended by an English professor. It’s wonderful and has a summary of MLA and APA style manuals in the back: Rules for Writers, Seventh Edition, by Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers, published by Bedford/St. Martin’s.

I use Gregg and Morson as appropriate and for inspiration.

Francesca Ivy: Of course, first and foremost would be Morson’s English Guide for Court Reporters. I keep a copy of my English book from school that is also useful from time to time by Mary A. Bogle called Rowe College Business English. As a freelance reporter taking depositions, I find that it helps to have some local phone books to consult for surname spellings. I also keep a few really old phone books to search for spellings of closed-down businesses from pre-internet days. Over the years, my print books have been reduced substantially because of the internet, but the ones that I still keep handy tend to be on specific subjects that I don’t know a lot about or find easier to consult than searching online; for example, an electronics dictionary, a chemical dictionary, a world atlas, a medical dictionary, the Illustrated Dictionary of Building Materials and Techniques by Paul Bianchina, and The Barnhart Abbreviations Dictionary. I have purchased some of these over the years by perusing used book sales in the references section.

  1. Which online references do you use or like the most?

PM: The three I use the most are:

I also have regulars, frequents, reliable specialties, and so on.

FI: I use Merriam-Webster a lot, my state bar association for attorneys’ names and email addresses, and the state board of medical examiners for doctors’ names. I like Walgreens.com for medication names because they have an index in which you can search by the first letter of the drug and have all the names come up and then choose the best match and check for what it is used for to confirm if it is the right one. LinkedIn is great, and Facebook can be helpful, too.

Lisa Inverso: One reference I would add is using Grammarist.com as an online reference source. It gives explanations and the proper usage of many words in the English language that are a sound alike or confusing sometimes.

Also, sometimes I will put the spelling that I think it might be into Google search, which will ask: “Did you mean…” and give me a different spelling of the word. Then I check if Google’s suggestion is the word I want. It saves me time when I don’t know the spelling.

  1. What is your best tip for researching online?

AS: When I Google a drug or proper name, I never take the first spelling but check multiple sources below that first one to be sure I get the correct one. How easy it is today to check spellings at midnight when in “the olden days” I would call the pharmacy (only when open) and the reference desk at the library with a question like, “Can you find the name of a city in Puerto Rico that sounds like x and maybe has a waterfall?” And, of course, that had to be during daytime hours!

PM: Tip 1 is “best” specific: LinkedIn is da bomb for people and companies, with worldwide participants.

Tip 2 is “best” general: Follow a link. Don’t accept the search engine summaries. Check that what appears in the search summary is also in the linked page, article, or reference (or many times not followed through in the link). Check that the source is reliable.

FI: I also do not just trust what comes up first on a Google search page. I check more thoroughly. I definitely don’t trust Wikipedia since what is on there could be written by anyone. I keep a folder in my favorites titled “Research,” and when I stumble upon a good site for researching a particular subject, I add it in that folder so that I can find it again. I also have a binder with A to Z index pages. When I have a hard time finding something online and finally have success, I jot the word down and keep it there for next time so I won’t have to go through the pain again. I also keep frequently occurring words or company names in there that are no longer around; for instance, companies that made asbestos products.

Kathy McHugh: My best search tip online is putting in some context as well as the word I’m specifically looking for. I’ll put the surrounding words that the attorney or witness used and that generally helps me find what I’m looking for.

Get comfy for professional development: Exciting upcoming NCRA webinars

Front view of a person sitting barefoot on a couch with their laptop on their knees, blocking their faceCourt reporters and captioners understand the value of continuing education and always improving one’s skills, but it can be challenging to attend in-person events. With NCRA webinars, you can learn more about your profession from the comfort of your own home or office (not to mention that you can attend them in your slippers – no one will know!).

NCRA has a wide variety of topics coming up in the next month. The JCR Weekly reached out to the presenters to help whet your appetite.

On Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. ET, Tori Pittman, FAPR, RDR, CRI, will present “Intersteno: Berlin and Beyond.” Pittman is a freelance reporter from North Carolina who has a passion for Intersteno. Intersteno is “a worldwide community uniting all those using a full range of speed writing methods to quickly produce high quality texts” (including steno lovers, keyboarding champions, and verbatim writers), and they host an international Congress every two years. In this 90-minute webinar, Pittman will talk about the networking and competition opportunities at Intersteno. She describes it as “international travel that is also a business expense” and explains that Intersteno attendees “learn about reporting in other countries while exploring fantastic locations.” The 2017 Intersteno Congress was held in Berlin, Germany (NCRA members performed very well in the competitions), and the next event is in 2019 in Sardinia, Italy.

On Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. ET, Lisa Jo Hubacher, RPR, CRI, will present “Thinking about Student Training.” Hubacher is an instructor at Madison Area Technical College (which is also her alma mater) in Madison, Wis. Madison Area Technical College received one of the final Training for Realtime Writers grants in 2014 due to its curriculum redesign. In this webinar, Hubacher will discuss this curriculum model, including the redesign’s impact on the program, what’s working, and what needs tweaking. As she describes it, the webinar will cover “how to design a program based on student needs without any curriculum-design knowledge.” Hubacher says she’ll also talk about why “‘But that’s the way we’ve always done it’ doesn’t fly anymore.” This is a must-attend webinar for anyone involved in training reporting students!

On Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. ET, Santo J. Aurelio, FAPR, RDR, will present “Legal Terms, Part 1.” Aurelio has presented several language-related webinars recently, including “What Reporters Must Know about Punctuation” and “English Grammar Gremlins: Ways to Conquer Them” (now both available as e-seminars). Aurelio will present on more than a hundred and fifty terms, but he admits, “I really get a special kick out of four of them: alibi (in another place), durance vile (imprisonment), eleemosynary (charitable), and Esq.” He adds, “If I must pick one, then I guess it would be Esq., which is merely a title of courtesy, but attorneys think that it means ‘one who is an attorney.’” Aurelio will provide “economical but cogent explanations” for the words that he hopes each attendee will easily remember.

Finally, on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. ET, Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, CRC, will present “Promoting the Profession.” Uviedo is an official in San Antonio, Texas, and she serves as co-chairperson for the Texas Court Reporters Association Student Recruitment Task Force. Her efforts in recruiting and mentoring court reporting students have won her the NCSA challenge not just once, but twice in a row; in 2015, she organized participation in 13 career fairs in 15 days in San Antonio. “It is so easy and rewarding volunteering for a recruitment event,” says Uviedo. “You have the potential to reach hundreds, even if you only talk to 50.” Uviedo has also found the value in promoting the profession over social media, and she hints that “one cool thing I’ll talk about is having attendees take selfies of themselves in front of their court reporting machines and having them spread posts about court reporting.”

Members who attend the webinars will be able to ask questions directly to the presenter and get them answered right away. But if you are not able to attend the live webinar, they will be available as on-demand e-seminars after the fact. Keep an eye on NCRA’s e-seminar library for these and other topics to help grow as a professional.

Commas and hyphens and exclamation points, oh my! A conversation about punctuation

White question marks painted on asphalt in a pattern, alternating between upside down and right-side up

Photo by: Véronique Debord-Lazaro

In honor of National Punctuation Day, which was on Sept. 24, the JCR hosted a discussion with NCRA’s Proofreading Advisory Council about punctuation marks. Members talked about whether they use the Oxford/serial comma or not, what they call #, what punctuation rules they look up the most, and what their favorite punctuation mark is. The following members shared their responses:

  • Aimee Suhie, RPR, a freelancer in New Fairfield, Conn.
  • Judy Lehman, FAPR, RMR, CRI, an official in Shelbyville, Ill.
  • Janine Ferren, RPR, CRR, a freelancer in Fishers, Ind.
  • Patricia Miller, CRI, CPE, an instructor in Middletown, Del.
  • Francesca Ivy, RPR, a freelancer in Metairie, La.
  • Kathy McHugh, RPR, CRR, a freelancer in Audubon, N.J.
  1. Do you use the Oxford/serial comma? Why or why not?

Aimee Suhie: I’m sorry to say I despise the Oxford comma and have never used it. I figure if you have an and or an or in the sentence, why do you need a comma before it? If you have a list like book, pencil, desk — bingo, commas! But if you have book, pencil and desk, isn’t that why the and is there? I know even the New York Times uses the Oxford comma, but when I was a newspaper reporter, I never did.

Judy Lehman: I do use the Oxford/serial comma. Although it takes a little more time — and I don’t love it — it clarifies things that may otherwise be ambiguous. Good example found here.

Janine Ferren: Yes, I do use the Oxford comma. [Ed note: Janine referenced the slightly risqué Web comic that involves JFK, Stalin, and two dancing girls that is frequently cited in editing, proofing, and grammar circles.]

Patricia Miller: I do use the Oxford/serial comma. I like to be precise and for sentences to be as clear as possible. If a situation warrants leaving it out, I will do that. Flexibility in punctuation is important in order for the message to say what it intends to say.

I do not understand the intensity of feeling that some have regarding any individual mark of punctuation (nor the dogmatic application, or not, of any one rule or style). It’s a living language, people! We are professionally alive and vital because we can adapt better than the other methods. They all, the marks, exist as tools to help the reader see the words and the message as smoothly as possible. They can be used creatively to misdirect the reader (not in our profession, of course) and can be piled in to make words as precise as math.

Francesca Ivy: I use the Oxford/serial comma. Always have and always will. It is what I learned to do, and I agree that it prevents sentences from being misunderstood.

Kathy McHugh: I don’t always use the Oxford comma — it seemed unnecessary a lot of the times — but I think you ladies have convinced me it serves a purpose.

  1. What is # called?

AS: To show my age, # means number to me, not hashtag!

JL: Yeah, it’s the number symbol for me, too. Hashtag means what, anyway?

JF: I always used to call it the number sign. Then people started calling it pound, such as on the telephone. At first I didn’t know what it was. I figured out that it was the number sign by process of elimination, because it definitely wasn’t the star! Then hashtag started with the social media platforms. I use all three terms now, depending on what I’m referring to.

PM: I use the word that fits the usage. So hashtag if social media. Pound sign or number sign if communication, such as a telephone number. Pound as a measurement.

FI: If I see it standing alone like above, I call it the number sign. If it is connected with social media, I say hashtag.

KM: I would automatically call # the pound sign, but I understand its other meanings.

  1. Which punctuation rule do you double check the most?

AS: I memorized Lillian Morson’s amazing punctuation rules for commas and semicolons in sentences and faithfully followed her rules of “comma, comma, semicolon” and never more than two commas. In recent years, however, I definitely strayed from that rule and used separate sentences more instead of semicolons to allow the attorney who might be reading this aloud to a jury to be more clear on where each sentence was going. I didn’t check the rules because I was so impressed by every word she wrote (and spoke at conventions — I even got to meet her!) that I absorbed them and thought each made perfect sense. I did and do have to check Mary Louise Gilman’s One Word, Two Words, Hyphenated?, however, several times per transcript.

JL: Probably hyphenations and one word/two words are what I check most. I have several copies of Mary Louise Gilman’s One Word, Two Words, Hyphenated? around. It’s an oldie but a goodie. While grading fast-fingered reporter speed tests this past weekend, we had several of those issues arise — housecleaning or house cleaning, for instance.

JF: What punctuation rule do I check the most? Numbers and hyphens.

PM: That’s tricky. It’s not the rule so much as the application in a particular situation. I investigate hyphens the most.

FI: I would probably say quotation rules, especially in the Q&A form when parts of another transcript are read into the record I’m taking. It doesn’t happen too often in depositions.

KM: I check the need to hyphenate words the most.

  1. What is your favorite punctuation mark?

AS: Love the dash! Makes sentences so clear to the attorney reading them.

JL: My fave punctuation mark for transcripts is the reporter dash. That may be obvious from my first two answers. It’s awesome for enhancing readability, which is what transcripts are all about. For other writing I do, likely my favorite is the much maligned and underutilized semicolon! I’ve taught English classes for court reporters, medical transcription students, and accounting students, and I currently teach some professional development classes in adult education. I harp on the correct usage of this jewel.

JF: My favorite! Punctuation! Mark! Is one I never use in a transcript! Can you guess what it is?! I’m Italian, I speak with my hands, and so I use the exclamation point like I use my hands.

PM: I like getting to the end of a long sentence without needing any internal punctuation. I do not have a favorite mark. All the kids get to play on my team.

FI: I would have to go with the exclamation point, probably because I don’t get to use it in transcripts!!!

KM: I guess the exclamation point would be my favorite as well but, yes, never used in a transcript.

A fresh and tasty baker’s dozen

donut_overviewBy Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, and Beverly Thomas

Proofreading is the last step in the finalization of your transcript. The proofreader’s eyes are the last ones to review the final product. It’s important to set the stage and do the most thorough job possible in order to produce the best transcript. We offer the following tips to make the task more efficient, more thorough, and more foolproof.

donut1Scoping and proofreading are not the same function. For the best results, scoping should be done by someone else and at a different time than when you proofread.

 

donut2Create a comfortable environment with good lighting and seating. Minimize distractions and interruptions. Try to ensure you are fed and well rested prior to starting your proofing session.

 

donut3Determine which method works best for you: in the software on your computer; using an app on a tablet device; printed on paper.

 

donut4Allot sufficient time to do the job thoroughly. Slow and steady wins the race every time over fast and sloppy. Take breaks — don’t try to read 400 pages all at one go.

 

donut5Complete all research prior to commencing proofreading. You will lose the flow necessary for contextual reading if you’re stopping every half page to double-check a spelling or perform an online search for a term.

 

donut6Choose a reputable primary dictionary to follow (Merriam-Webster, American Heritage, Oxford) when making decisions on spellings, hyphenation, and one word/two words rather than stand-alone books that may be outdated or unsupported by references.

 

donut7If you encounter a word/term with which you are unfamiliar, be wary of accepting the first word that pops up in a Google search that seems to fit your phonetic. Be sure to check the definition in a reputable dictionary, and make sure it fits the context.

 

donut8While spot-checking the audio can be helpful, listening to continuous audio is not recommended. It is difficult to read for context, pay attention to punctuation, and listen to audio at the same time.

 

donut9Be aware of your weaknesses. If you habitually misstroke things like “they’re/there/their” or “it’s/its,” pay special attention to occurrences of those words. Also watch for incorrect small words like “as/at,” “it/is,” and missing words like “a” and “the.”

 

donut10Keep in mind the common words that are often transposed (I did/did I) and words that are only one or two letters different (formal/former, contact/contract), and pay special attention when they occur.

 

donut11If you’ve used more than one scopist to get the job done, pay special attention to consistency in capitalization, hyphenation, and other potential differing styles among scopists.

 

donut12Don’t forget to run a final spellcheck in your software after you’ve finished proofreading. Spell-check is very good at catching double words such as “the the” and “that that,” which are easily missed while reading. Consider running the finished document through Word’s spell-check and grammar checker. While Word does have some unusual ideas about grammar (and should never be taken as gospel), it is very helpful in identifying missing prepositions, “form” for “from” and the like, as well as other small things that can otherwise be missed during proofreading.

 

donut13After you’ve finished your initial proofreading, go back and double check bylines and speaker identifications as well as consistency with any special terms you’ve become aware of during the job. It’s easy to read right past such errors when you’re focused on reading for context.

 

The final proofreading of a transcript is your last chance to ensure you are producing your most complete and accurate product. Don’t shortchange yourself or your clients by glossing over the small details or thinking just a quick pass will be sufficient. As you continue to produce beautiful, error-free transcripts, your reputation among your clients and your peers will flourish. The e­ffort is well worth the reward!

 

Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, and Beverly Thomas are the primary team members of Perfect Partners Transcript Brigade, which was established in 2014. Learn more at transcriptbrigade.wordpress.com.

Q&A: Checking in with Joe Aurelio

Santo “Joe” Aurelio, FAPR, RDR (Ret.), has always had an attraction to the English language, first as a court reporter and later as a professor of English. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University, and a doctorate in education from Boston University. After he retired from reporting because of a hearing loss, he became a visiting professor at colleges in the Boston area. He teaches a variety of subjects, but mainly English grammar and medicolegal terminology. He will be teaching two live webinars, What Reporters Must Know about Punctuation on July 12, 6-7:30 p.m. ET and The Strange Backgrounds of Familiar Words, Part 1 on Aug. 1, 6-7:30 p.m. ET. The JCR caught up with him to find out a little more about his background and the reason behind his interest in this topic.

Tell us a little about your career.

I started night school at the Boston Stenotype Institute, and on the first night I met a girl, Josephine, who later became my wife. In 1975, she started freelance reporting — and she’s still at it!

I ranged all over Massachusetts during my career. During my 39 years, I had a wealth of experiences. I took some important cases (my first murder case was my first case in Korea!). I met some dynamic attorneys while working at the state labor department. My job at the federal agency was to travel around New England taking the testimony from disabled applicants for Social Security aid (some of that was sad). My first case in Superior Court was a criminal case (I was to take many of those). Other than some horrendous murder cases, possibly the two most important cases that I took in Superior Court: one involved the New England Patriots football team and the other, of course, was the Boston Strangler. In a sentence, I’ve had an interesting reporting career with fine memories and opportunities to meet and/or report important persons.

When did you become an NCRA member?

I became an NCRA member, I believe, in 1957. I did so because I believe in unity. When reporters gather together and unite, they have strength and can chart their future course or at least help to chart that course. When reporters join, their dues help to pay for professional advice and lobbying efforts. It’s patently unfair for unregistered reporters to have the benefit of all of the strides that their fellow registered reporters have worked hard for. I am solidly aligned with local, regional, and national unions!

close up of a dictionary page

Photo by jwyg

What started your interest in learning more about language than just what you needed for court reporting?

Even as a little kid of 10 or so, I would fool around with language (I’ll be back in a flash with some cash in my sash). Later I remember saying such things as “She would feint a faint.” I was always very interested in homonyms (such as made/maid) and what I would call pseudohomonyms (accede/exceed). In short, I was interested in language many years before I started stenotype reporting. I remember when I was about 14, there was a manual typewriter at the train station where I used to sell newspapers, and I used to put in a quarter to unlock it so that I could type on it for 30 minutes.

If you remember your days from your master’s and doctorate, what did you find was the difference you brought to your studies as a court reporter?

I went back to school late. I was almost 50 when I started my serious studying. My bachelor’s was 1983, the master’s was 1985, and the doctorate was 1989. What I think I brought to my studies was a deep focus that I had to use as a reporter: listening very carefully to every word spoken. In other words, because I was so serious about listening to and capturing every single word in court, I think that that held me in great stead in listening to my professors.

Frankly, it was very difficult to earn three degrees at night while working full-time in a busy court. How’d I do it? By being very motivated because I saw the handwriting on the wall: my hearing loss was making my daily job hard to do. I only succeeded in performing a creditable job in court by having a lot of speed (I passed a 280) and knowing and liking a great deal of English. And that’s how I lasted until 1990. (I wanted to teach in college, and to do that, one needs a lot of degrees.)

You’ve given one seminar for NCRA members recently, and you’re planning another one. What do you hope court reporters and captioners learn from your sessions?

I’ve done one webinar, and soon I’ll do another. I know that a lot of people, including reporters, have great difficulty with English, especially homonyms and pseudohomonyms. Mistakes are being made daily, and the reporters who commit them are not even aware that they’re using the wrong word or spelling a word incorrectly or malpunctuating a sentence. Well, even though I haven’t touched a stenotype since 1990, I still consider myself a reporter, and I feel that it’s my duty to correct or to help correct those who make those types of errors — and I want to do that until I hang up my skates. What I hope reporters will learn from these webinars is that I’d like all of them to learn and use the correct word or punctuation always.

Is there some advice that you would like all reporters and captioners to take to heart?

My advice to all reporters and captioners is to have the highest respect and fealty to the art and profession of reporting. It is an honorable profession. Think of it: Reporters are responsible for taking and transcribing all of the words of everybody. What could be more important than that? I rest my case.

BOOK REVIEW: Small nuggets of grammatical wisdom

By Dom Tursi

All Things English
By Margie Wakeman Wells
Margie Holds Court Publishing, 2016

Since I turned the first page of All Things English, I was riveted. Margie Wakeman Wells’ teaching experience and dedication to both language and court reporting have aggregated in a label which few deserve: genius.

I have read and reread Wakeman Wells’ explanation of “Why This Book Exists.” Her thoughts about the “lessening importance of English” in contemporary American education parallel what so many reporting professionals believe is missing from our potential population of future colleagues. Her reasoning is insightful, practical, and on point.

Wakeman Wells shows a keen sensitivity to overcoming societal deficiencies that have caused great anxiety in those seeking to perpetuate our timeless profession with reporters who have not only excellent stenographic skills but also the ability to produce first-rate transcripts.

All Things English brilliantly provides a solution as realistic as it is comprehensive. Understanding that people lead busy lives and won’t study English “just because it is a good idea,” Wakeman Wells has come up with a format that is practical, relatable – and effective. By teaching small nuggets, broken into even smaller subsections, and continuing the pattern for only minutes a day over the course of a defined period of time, Margie presents to serious reporting students a palatable opportunity to improve their knowledge of this most important aspect of good court reporting.

I am continually fascinated by her sprinkling of a single vocabulary word and sensibly-selected spelling on each page, and am equally amazed at her intuitive way of presenting word usage and tacit bits of grammar – all in a simplistic and comfortable format.

As I continue perusing “All Things English” – and, in the process, enrich my own knowledge – I find myself thanking the author in behalf of today’s and tomorrow’s reporting generations. Please count me among your greatest fans.

Dom Tursi is an official reporter based in Central Islip, N.Y.

Politics influences the 2016 words of the year: A roundup

dictionary page

Photo by jwyg

Oxford Dictionaries came out with their word of the year in mid-November, choosing post-truth for 2016. Oxford Dictionaries has noticed “an expansion in the meaning of the prefix post- that has become increasingly prominent in recent years” with a meaning that has shifted to “belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant” (early examples are post-war, post-national, and post-racial). Oxford Dictionaries cites a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine as the first use of post-truth. Oxford Dictionaries, which is a British publication, saw a spike for post-truth this year “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States.” Other contenders for Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year include glass cliff, chatbot, adulting, woke, and Latinx.

Dictionary.com chose xenophobia as their word of the year. Xenophobia comes from two Greek roots — xénos or “stranger,” and phóbos, which means “fear, panic.” Dictionary.com cited similar current events that influenced the spike in xenophobia lookups: the Brexit vote, Syria’s refugee crisis, the U.S. presidential election, and police shootings. Dictionary.com did not share any other finalists for the word of the year.

Merriam-Webster announced their word of the year at the end of December, choosing surreal. According to Merriam-Webster, surreal is “a relatively new word in English, and derives from surrealism, the artistic movement of the early 1900s that attempted to depict the unconscious mind in dreamlike ways as ‘above’ or ‘beyond’ reality. Surreal itself dates to the 1930s, and was first defined in a Merriam-Webster dictionary in 1967.” They saw three distinct spikes in lookups for surreal this year: following the Brussels terror attack in March, the coup attempt in Turkey and the terrorist attack in Nice in July, and the U.S. election in November. Other finalists for Merriam-Webster’s word of the year include revenant, in omnia paratus, bigly, irregardless, and feckless.

In a move that is uncharacteristically interactive of dictionaries but has become typical behavior for Merriam-Webster, at the end of November the dictionary tweeted out “‘Fascism’ is still our #1 lookup. # of lookups = how we choose our Word of the Year. There’s still time to look something else up.” In response, users began looking up other words, including puppies and flummadiddle, to influence the final word of the year. Merriam-Webster then replied in an article, “We like puppies … But they will not be our Word of the Year, and neither will flummadiddle.” The article goes on to explain how the dictionary chooses the word of the year. The article also includes adorable photos of puppies.

Politics didn’t just influence English; Austria chose Bundespraesidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung, or “postponement of the repeat of the runoff of the presidential election,” as their word of the year because of “the record time it took to elect Austria’s president.” The Research Unit for Austrian German at the University of Graz and the Austria Press Agency ran a poll to determine the word of the year.

Find Oxford Dictionaries’ 2015 word of the year.

Find Merriam-Webster’s 2015 word of the year.

Why English is so hard to learn: adjective order

JCR publications share buttonOxford Dictionaries posted a video in September explaining why adjectives appear in a certain order before a noun. Read more.

GRAMMAR: How important is punctuation?

By Santo J. Aurelio

Punctuation is extremely important. Without it, sentences cannot be understood. The job of a reporter is basically twofold: to capture all of the spoken words and then to transcribe those words correctly using correct and understandable punctuation. Yes, I know that it takes a bit longer to “think” about the words and how they should be properly punctuated. But isn’t that what reporters are being paid to do – to capture words and to put them in a form that others can readily understand?

I was a reporter for 39 years before I had to retire because of hearing problems that could not be remedied. During those years I frequently worked with other reporters and had many opportunities to view their work. By and large, their work was satisfactory, but I confess that some reporters, even though they had fine reputations, did not transcribe with the proper amount (read: the highest amount) of correct punctuation. Pushing the work out too quickly and without following the rules of punctuation is not professional.

Court reporting is a profession, and it must be treated as such. If we want to receive the trust and respect of judges, attorneys, and, in fact, everyone, then we must do the best possible job of taking down all of the words and transcribing them for any reader to fully understand. Yes, I know that many speakers do not finish their sentences, and that is exactly where our special knowledge of punctuational rules will come into play. If a speaker doesn’t finish a sentence or if he or she is interrupted or simply trails off, the only way to transcribe that is by a dash or two hyphens. Using a few periods to show that is incorrect. Why? Because three or four periods (…or ….) is strictly reserved for ellipses.

Ellipses must be employed when one is quoting and deliberately leaves some words out. If those omitted words come at the beginning or middle of the quote, then three periods (…) must be used to show that there was a deliberate omission. If the omitted words come at the end of the quote, then four periods (….) must be used to show that there were words omitted at the end of the quote (that is, three plus one for the sentence-ending period).

Unfortunately, some court reporting programs are incorrectly instructing reporting students to put in a series of periods to denote an interruption or a trailing off. That is incorrect. And some programs are instructing students that it is proper to have just one space between sentences. That, too, is incorrect. Two spaces should be used after a sentence is finished; after an end-of-sentence question mark; and after a colon.

And, of course, all words should be spelled correctly. Names, especially of the principals, must be spelled correctly.

What I am attempting to do now in writing this article is to encourage and motivate every reporter, whether tyro or veteran, to do the absolute best that he or she can in taking down words and transcribing them with correct punctuation.

Semicolons should only be used if the reporter knows exactly how to use them. There are only three ways to employ them: (1) between two independent clauses (sentences, as, He is tall; she is short); (2) when transcribing series (as, I told her that she was smart; that she was organized; and that she had a great future); and (3) to avoid confusion (as, Ted came from Rome; Bill came from Berlin; Joe came from Arlington, Texas; and Harry from Cairo).

An error that I see frequently in magazines, books, and even the writings of some top reporters is the improper use of a hyphen after an adverb which precedes an adjective. The following sentence is punctuationally correct: The extremely tall girl is only 12 years old. The error that I see often in a sentence of that type is the insertion of a hyphen after (in this case) extremely.

All reporters deserve the greatest respect from all with whom they come in contact and all who read their transcripts. If all reporters want to have the respect of all, whether judges, attorneys, or anyone, then they have to earn that respect; and the way to gain that respect is to do a great job capturing all of the words spoken and transcribing them correctly and punctuationally correctly on every single case.

I was very proud to be a reporter. Each case was a challenge, but it was very satisfying to know that I did my very best on every case. The profession of reporting is just that: a profession. And we should all aspire to be true professionals. My last question to all reporters is: What better way to preserve our reporting profession than to do as perfect and professional a job taking down all of the words spoken and transcribing them with correct punctuation as is humanly possible? I rest my case.

Santo (Joe) Aurelio, RDR (Ret.), is an honorary member of NCRA. He resides in Arlington, Mass., and can be reached at sjaurelio@comcast.net.

 

Bovvered, tl;dr, and sleeping with the fishes: an OED update

JCR publications share buttonA June 23 post by the Oxford English Dictionary shares the “more than 1,000 new words and senses and nearly 2,000 fully revised or partially expanded entries” from the last quarter. The updates, which cover words from a variety of English-speaking countries, include words like listicle, power couple, CamelCase, and tl;dr.

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