If there's one thing I've become slightly obsessive about since starting to transcribe, it's correct punctuation. Nothing annoys me more than a misplaced apostrophe, missing comma, or misused quotation marks. This blog post - 10 common punctuation mistakes and how to avoid them - hits the nail on the head.
Here are the three in particular that really drive me crazy:
1. Extraneous Apostrophes
The Problem: People putting apostrophes where they don’t belong.
Example: It’s all your’s.
When I'm hiring new typists, this is a guaranteed way to get your application immediately binned. Unnecessary apostrophes seem to be everywhere: Monday's and sandwich's are a couple that I've seen on signs around town. In transcripts and articles, I've also seen a proliferation of apostrophes used for plural acronyms (such as MDG's) and decades (1970's). No, no, no.
3. Missing Commas
The Problem: Without commas, sentences become run-on blocks of text without any breaks.
Example: I went to the store but they were closed so I went home.
Absent commas can make a perfectly good sentence turn into an unreadable run-on sentence. One of the challenges of transcribing is that sometimes people DO speak in run-on sentences, so it's our job to add punctuation to indicate where the speaker took a breath (or perhaps should have taken a breath).
10. Quotation Mark Placement
The Problem: Sentence-ending punctuation marks often go outside of quotation marks rather than inside, which is where they belong.
Example: “I had a great day at work today”!
Placement of quotation marks - and the frequent lack of quotation marks despite the text obviously indicating something someone said - seems to be a common mistake. Apparently there's a difference between American and British English, but I think this is a fairly easy rule: if someone said something, use quotation marks and put the full stop or common inside the text. If the quote is a sentence fragment (as per this Daily Writing Tips example - the economy is starting from "a very strong position".) then the full stop is outside of the quotation marks. Or, as explained in a Guardian article:
The Guardian style guide, which reflects widespread practice in the UK, says:
Place full points and commas inside the quotes for a complete quoted sentence; otherwise the point comes outside -
"Anna said: 'Your style guide needs updating,' and I said: 'I agree.' "
but: "Anna said updating the guide was 'a difficult and time-consuming task'."