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. 

Apparently September 24th is National Punctuation Day in the US... who knew?

Apparently September 24th is National Punctuation Day in the US... who knew?

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'."


AuthorCaitlin McMullin