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Five hyphens in a row?  Brilliant!  But is that a thing?  It seems so.  Each of my clients expect different styles.  This mostly involves punctuation, but sometimes words too.  I often do not agree with the requirements, but it’s not up for debate and it’s not up to me!  I type what I hear the way I’ve been asked.

Interruptions:  I have noticed the main preference for a mid-sentence interruption or change of direction is the humble hyphen – but this had been acceptable as an n-dash (the width of a lower-case n) until I came across a client who wanted an m-dash (this one – the m-dash – takes up the room of a lower-case m).  I changed my settings to auto-correct an n-dash to an m-dash, and then along comes a client who only likes an n-dash.  For this, I have my settings set to an m-dash and then I will adapt for the client who wants the n-dash.  Sonya and Claire from TranscribeRight will use a double hyphen–like this–

There are those who prefer an ellipsis to be used mid-sentence … with varying requirements for spacing… so sometimes with…no space… a space after or … a space each side.  Then at times it can be a combination, so if it’s a phrase in the middle of a sentence – so a little phrase like this – but then the sentence continues afterwards, the m-dashes are used.  But if a speaker … or maybe two speakers might … if a speaker totally changes direction mid-sentence – which happens quite a bit – and the sentence does not continue to flow afterwards … what was the question again?  Then ellipses are used instead of the m-dash.

Trail-offs and interruptions end of sentence: There are varying requirements for how to treat the end of a sentence where a speaker stops talking without finishing the sentence or is interrupted.  Sometimes, it is required to finish with the classic ellipsis, which is my favourite …

Sometimes a space is required before the ellipses …

… and then sometimes a space is not required…

There is the m-dash –

– which is not the preference of all, as some like the n-dash –

Some like the double-dash —

–and I have one client who wants five—–

I comply, and I keep it consistent according to the style guide provided by the client.

Speech marks:  My very first client preferred me to use ‘single quotation marks’ for quotes such as these, or when I thought, ‘This is really different,’ but always wanted double speech marks for when I said, “I prefer double quotation marks for when somebody speaks,” but singles for the inside for when Mark said, “I was talking to Steve the other day who said, ‘My dog escaped the other day,’ and luckily he found him.”  Now, I use, “Double quotation marks for everything,” unless Mark said, “I was helping Steve with his car and he said, ‘Start her up,’ but I couldn’t find the keys.”

Where to put the full stop?  That can also be client-dependent.  I am lucky enough to be able to always include the full stop inside the speech marks as Mark said, “I like cheese.”  I have seen it required as no comma before the quoted speech such as: Mark said “I love cheese,” and I have also seen it with the full stop on the outside, “Cheese, yes please”.  The only case I would do this is for a word or phrase which is mostly short and does not make sense without the speech marks such as: “Mark, you just said ‘I love cheese’ several times; what is it about cheese you love so much?”

Very interestingly, I have come across a client who wants no speech marks whatsoever, as in none, as in Mark said, I like cheese.  Later in the conversation he said, I love cheese several times.  I was just starting to think that Mark liked all cheeses when he said, I cannot stand blue vein cheese.  It does remind me of Tim Winton, who uses no speech marks for dialogue, so the concept isn’t totally alien to me.  For those starting out and still training the left and right pinkies, not using speech marks is heaven.  But it’s a retraining of the brain for those of us who have it entrenched now.  It keeps us on our toes – or fingers. 

Abbreviations:  I had an autocorrect set in Word to extend “etc” to “etcetera”.  Then a client comes along who only wants “etc” instead of “etcetera” and another who prefers “OK” and not “okay”, which I find very strange as every other client I have come across has specified never to do this.  Some want numbers spelt out until double words, so eighteen, but not twenty-five.

Spaces between sentences:  I have clients who do not mind whether there are two spaces between sentences or one.  But for a while there, a majority of them wanted double spacing, so I changed my settings to check for two spaces between sentences.  One client wants only one, so I do a find and replace before submission to replace double spaces with just one.   I have forgotten to do this once.

Verbatim versus conversational:  Once again, this is very client specific.  Intelligent verbatim, conversational verbatim and other terms can mean what I call “clean”, so cleaned up of the unnecessary bits, whereas verbatim to some clients can mean absolutely every utterance included.   It is best to check with the client on this. 

I have a client who does not like the word “and” at the beginning of a sentence and then there are some who do not want anything at the beginning of a sentence unless it is absolutely necessary, including “so”.  I have clients who want all of this except for “um”, “ah”, “you know” and “sort of”, but anything else to be included.  The client’s style guide should specify what should be included, but always ask the client in you are not sure.

My non-negotiables:  I will not start a sentence with “or”, “whereas” or “because” unless it is written correctly and is a complete sentence.  I will not hyphenate two words unless it is a compound adjective.  I will not use the word “alright” as it is not a proper word.  But if a client specified this in the style guide or asked for this, I would comply.  My non-negotiables are up for negotiation.

The client is not always right, but the client is always right.

What strange request have you ever had from a client?

Jo Collins

The Transcription Directory