NCRA Board recognizes Brian Clune for contributions to legal video program

Brian Clune, shown here with NCRA President Christine Willette, is recognized for his contribution to the legal video program at the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference

Brian Clune, CLVS, was presented with a plaque recognizing his 20 years of service to the court reporting, captioning, and legal videography professions. Clune was instrumental in creating NCRA’s Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) program, including developing an ever-changing seminar and creating an exam for program participants to prove a basic knowledge of the techniques and ethics required by videographers pursuing a legal video career. NCRA President Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, presented the plaque to Clune, who had retired from the CLVS Council and committee work in 2017.

“The NCRA Board of Directors wanted to formally recognize Brian Clune for his 20 years of service to the profession through his dedication and arduous work with the CLVS program,” said Willette. “The work Brian has done for the CLVS certification and the Trial Presentation programs helped lay the groundwork for what we have today. We are thankful for all that he has done to bring court reporters and legal videographers a greater understanding of each person’s role in the legal process so that together we can offer our clients a better product. His expertise in the field has been an integral part of the success of the program.”

The CLVS program not only teaches participants the mechanics and best practices for providing a consistent and impartial video record, but it also reaffirms the cooperative nature of the legal videographer and court reporter in the deposition setting. “I am grateful to be the first CLVS to be recognized by the Board for my volunteer service,” said Clune, “but it is the hard work of the many associate members on the CLVS Council that that keeps the program up to date and running smoothly. … Each council member spent extra hours beyond the regular meetings to keep the program fresh and in step with the current technology. It was this collective effort that created the success of the program for these many years.

“The council members I worked with are too many to list here, but they remain good friends even after they left the Council. I truly appreciate the opportunity to have worked with such a selfless group of people whose only reward was a more respected CLVS program.”

Clune first served as a member of the CLVS Committee and then eventually became the Chair of the CLVS Council, offering his advice to newcomers to the profession, court reporters, and the profession at large. Clune also championed the need for additional, ongoing education for legal videographers, just as is required of their reporter counterparts, and was an integral member of the group that created NCRA’s Trial Presentation Program.

“It is a rare thing when one individual can make such a tremendous contribution to shaping the development of a program like the CLVS certification,” said Jason Levin, CLVS, who currently serves as the CLVS Council Chair. “Brian had a hand in influencing every aspect of this curriculum, from co-authoring the CLVS study book to designing the practical exam to writing questions for the written exam to teaching the majority of CLVS classes at our conventions. The list of his efforts is too large to enumerate. I will miss working with him on the CLVS Council, but I take comfort in knowing that he will easily be found at the YesLaw booth at NCRA Conventions for years to come.”

“I had the pleasure of working side-by-side with Brian for many years as a Council member and as an instructor for the CLVS program,” said Robert MacTavish, an early member of the CLVS Committee. “Throughout those years, Brian skillfully guided us from the VHS era into the digital recording era.”

MacTavish added: “I have many fond memories working with Brian, and I would like to congratulate him on his twenty years of service to the NCRA.”

Those tricky tech terms – when to lowercase, when to hyphenate, and more

Outline of a human head in profile with a TV, radio, and iPod within the head; the head is facing towards lines of computer code with the word "Technology" at the bottom. The entire image is in green and black.The JCR recently reached out to NCRA’s Proofreading Advisory Council members asking their opinion on spelling and capitalization on a variety of technology terms. Council members were also asked to share their references to back up their responses. The discussion inadvertently revealed how much language can change even within a few short years. The terms are below:

  • It is internet or Internet?
  • Is it website, web-site, Website, or Web-site?
  • Is it email, e-mail, Email, or E-mail?
  • Is it “I Googled it” or “I googled it”?
  • Is it smart phone, smart-phone, or smartphone?
  • Is it the cloud or the Cloud?

Several members relied on the old standby Merriam-Webster, especially for terms like email and internet.

Tara Gandel Hudson, RPR, CRR, for example, chose Internet because “Merriam-Webster still uses the cap. Perhaps it will change some day but not yet.” She also chose Google, adding, “While the preferred way may change to lowercase in the future, I don’t think we’re there yet.” And she chose cloud excepting if “it’s part of a proper name like iCloud.”

Katherine Schilling, RPR, defaulted to Merriam-Webster’s primary entry for all terms except cloud, explaining, “I actually have no good reason for this other than to capitalize it makes it sound like it’s a business’s name.”

Pat Miller, CRI, CPE, abstained completely because “I use almost all of the options depending on which reporter’s work I am reading” as a proofreader, which is probably the most telling statement of all.

Aimee Suhie, RPR: “When the first of these terms came up in transcripts in the dark ages, I’d like to say I Googled them (definitely Googled capped because it is a proper name) and used Internet capped; web site as two words, lowercase; and e-mail hyphenated (although now I would do it as one word, email, because so many terms such as evite and eTran begin with lowercase e no space). I looked up smartphone as recently as this past year on Google and found it to be one word lowercase. But I would cap the Cloud simply because it’s cool.”

Francesca Ivy, RPR, said, “I guess I should revisit these terms from time to time considering how fast the computer world progresses” but offered the following responses:

  • Internet — I always have, but I may have to rethink that choice pretty soon since, according to Merriam-Webster, the lowercase form is becoming more widespread and is the more common form used in British publications.
  • website — It is such a common word now that it looks wrong to be capped or hyphenated.
  • email — Up until recently, I was spelling it e-mail. But when I started on the Proofreading Advisory Council, I learned that they were spelling it as one word and I switched.
  • Googled — Because it’s a company name.
  • smartphone — Same rationale as website; just such a common word. And Merriam-Webster has it as one word.
  • the Cloud — To me, it stands out that way to mean it as connected with the computer world as opposed to a cloud in the sky.

Lisa Inverso (scopist for Kathy McHugh, RPR, CRR): “I can tell you how I do it, but I’m not sure I can give the why because just looking up Internet shows a lot of controversy in the why and when to use it. It was once referred to as a proper noun and that’s why it was capitalized, but then if it’s used as an adjective like internet resources, it is not capped. So I’m not sure there are any easy answers to these. Some of these are changing with time, which is making it difficult for everyone.

My comments below reflect how I do things when working on jobs for editing. If I’m proofing jobs, I always go with what the reporter has and keep everything consistent.

  • I use Internet capped when used as a noun.
  • I commonly see website spelled as one word uncapped in articles.
  • I know email is becoming the common spelling without being hyphenated and lowercase.
  • I think Googled is still capped because it is the proper name of the company Google.
  • I have found smartphone as lowercase and one word because there are now many different models of smartphones in existence and not just one.
  • I believe it’s referred to as the Cloud with the capital because it is a proper name for a place where things are being stored.”

Judy Lehman, FAPR, RMR, CRI: “These are my practices and opinions only, of course — because if you look long and dig deep enough, you’ll find conflicting rules and usage and a decent argument for whichever style you choose. So in the end, just be consistent.

  • internet: Because it has become ubiquitous in the same manner as kleenex (for tissue), xerox (for photocopying), and band aid.
  • website, one word, lowercase: The lowercase website is a generic use. I checked over 20 references on this one. Each used one word, not capped. I’m rolling with the majority which, fortunately, is consistent with what I do anyway.
  • email, no hyphen: The word/term has evolved (from electronic mail) in a similar fashion to other words in this list. Once again, the overwhelming majority of references I found used email. And … it’s quicker to type — and every little bit helps! Another consistent example: Gmail, not G-mail.
  • Same with google as a verb, lowercase, although I understand Google doesn’t want us to use google as a generic verb for searching on the internet/web and that we should only use google as a verb when we actually use Google to google, er, search. If one adheres to the rule that the site Google is a proper noun that should be capitalized and that the verb google should be printed with a lowercase leading g, then there would be no confusion about how the word is being used, no?
  • smartphone: One and done. That’s it. Always.
  • the cloud: This one is a little trickier. It hasn’t been in the lingo as long. Some of the usages I found use the Cloud. But the lowercase version makes more sense to me. Cloud in the general sense means a part of cyberspace or is cyberspace. Cyberspace isn’t capped — well, except here where I used it to begin the sentence. And here’s an interesting blurb that solidifies my choice to use lowercase:

What is cloud computing? Everything you need to know now | InfoWorld

Jul 10, 2017 – The “cloud” in cloud computing originated from the habit of drawing the internet as a fluffy cloud in network diagrams. No wonder the most popular meaning of cloud computing refers to running workloads over the internet remotely in a commercial provider’s data center — the so-called “public cloud” model.

Unless you are talking about a particular company’s cloud perhaps, i.e.: IBM Cloud or Azure Cloud computing, which you may then want to capitalize.

In terms of NCRA skills testing, the RPR, RMR, CRR, and CRC Skills Tests are developed based on the rules of punctuation set forth in The Gregg Reference Manual and Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.


Read more from the NCRA Proofreading Advisory Council:

Grammatical sleuthing: Best resources for searching in print and online

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

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 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 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.

Paying it forward

Stack of hands as if doing a team cheerBy Allison Kimmel

Do you remember the day you learned that you passed your RPR certification exam? I distinctly remember when I found out — Christmas Eve. I had taken the test in November of 1989. Every day I would come home from work and ask my husband, Bob, if I had gotten the results. Each time the answer was no. Unbeknownst to me, he had placed the results — unopened — in a wrapped box under the Christmas tree. It could have ended very badly had I not received positive news. He is a very blessed man.

Passing the RPR meant I passed muster and might be able to succeed in court reporting after all. Those credentials represented a lot to me then, and they still do to this day. The other professionals in my national association had given me their imprimatur, and I gleefully joined their ranks as a professional registered member.

Several years have passed since those early days, and I know that I would not be where I am today without the help of mentors and reporters sharing their experiences along the way. Those mentors and reporters began giving advice and encouragement from day one, and it has not stopped. I am lucky to have been surrounded by such a fantastic group of dedicated professionals.

We all have anecdotes of the valuable knowledge that others have passed along to us. To illustrate one such story and the long-term impact of a simple act, when I was a newly graduated reporter in 1987, Jean Long, RPR, graciously shared with me a medical term. She had spent some time looking for the proper spelling at one point in her career; the term was bruit. It is pronounced BREW-EE. She walked me over to the dictionary to point it out. I never forgot her short one-minute lesson.

A couple of years later, at a different court reporting agency, another reporter was struggling to find that exact word. I knew it immediately — not from school days, but from Jean’s lesson. It was time to pay it forward, and I proudly did.

After gaining some real-life experience and much-needed confidence, I came to the realization that it was not enough to be a contented dues-paying member in my professional associations. I wanted to do more. I had observed others volunteering and felt that I could offer perhaps a slightly different approach. It was time — time to repay all those gifts of knowledge and information that were so readily shared with me. I had received so many over the years.

I started out small. Volunteering was out of my comfort zone, and I truly wanted to be brave and emulate some of the best professionals in our business. The first time I volunteered for my state association was in 2002. We had a need to represent the court reporting profession at the All-Ohio High School Counselors Conference in Columbus. With another reporter, Lori Jay, RPR, CMRS, we were responsible for promoting the court reporting and captioning career choices to the school counselors who approached our table of brochures and equipment. Donna Karoscik, RDR, CRR, CRC, provided a demonstration of realtime to the group by captioning the keynote speaker. We were enthusiastic, and we worked hard that day to advocate for our profession.

After that experience, I began helping my state association with administering the national certification exams, first as someone to assist and then as a chief examiner for the CRR tests. I tried to be the voice of calm for test candidates, and I enjoyed seeing the test candidates succeed. I also began assisting my state association at the Ohio Judicial Conference’s Court Technology Conference. With many vendors present touting their “technology,” it was an eye-opening experience. I now know just how crucial it is for court reporting associations to be represented at such events — and displaying the best we have to offer in court reporting and realtime technology. My state association members attend this event year after year without fail.

Fast forward a few years. Our state association needed members willing to serve on the board. After some persuasive discussion by Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, and a multitude of excuses on my end, I agreed to serve on the Board of Directors of the Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA). I came in as vice president and moved my way up the ladder. It was at that point that I began to understand the intricacies of leading, the minefields — some of which cannot be avoided — and the heavy lifting that volunteering involved. My prior volunteer experiences were rewarding but nowhere near as challenging. The successes were amazing; the failures devastating.

I was working as an official court reporter in state court during this time. My court administration seemed enamored with digital recording technology and eagerly proclaimed the cost savings to be realized to any who would listen. It appeared to be an uphill and frustrating battle.

Through the efforts of the late Jerry Kelley and other volunteers across the country, I quietly began to amass a database of current electronic and digital recording failures. It was an informal, unsanctioned effort, but the group saw a need. The database effort seemed a tad futile at times, but I can attest that the information gathered was useful at a key moment during my tenure on the OCRA board, particularly when the Cleveland Plain Dealer came calling for commentary on an article regarding the court reporter versus electronic and digital recording debate. That volunteer effort provided relevant, documented cases to cite, not just hearsay or conjecture. It was a small victory.

Coincidentally, it was around this point that Stephen Zinone, RPR, reached out to me about serving on the NCRA Cost Comparison Task Force. Our task was to do a complete analysis of the cost of digital recording technology versus a court reporter — using best practices for each. To say this was right up my alley is an understatement. Steve was a thoughtful, smart leader who asked for input from all of us. The entire group worked hard to make the Task Force’s white paper bulletproof. We accomplished our goal, though it took many emails, conference calls, an in-person meeting in Nashville, and a couple of years of persistence. To this day, when OCRA members attend the Ohio Judicial Conference’s Court Technology Conference, we have the white paper there to discuss with attendees.

That first experience serving as a task force volunteer at the national level gave me a huge sense of fulfillment. I was proud of our work, and I was hooked. I knew I could make a difference — if not for myself, perhaps for others.

Working with students as an adjunct faculty member for Clark State Community College is something I enjoy immensely, so signing up to work on the Item Writing Committee seemed a natural fit. Brenda Fauber, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CPE, served as the chairperson of the committee. The group met in the Washington, D.C., area. We spent time training with a professional consultant, and we discussed at length what is involved in writing proper written knowledge test questions using approved authoritative sources. (Yes, there is a question involving bruit — in case you were wondering. I’m paying it forward.) I continue to serve on the committee; along the way, I have begun serving on the Skills Test Writing Committee.

What an education I have received! I have gained a deeper appreciation of our national certification tests and the incredible vision of those who saw the necessity of certification. I have learned why, as a professional association, we must continually strive to ensure that the certifications are valid and fair measures of both the entry-level reporter and the seasoned reporter. Those who pass the NCRA certification tests can be confident that they, too, pass muster and have indeed earned a worthwhile achievement.

Comedian Lily Tomlin once stated, “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” This applies to each one of us. Let me ask: Who is better than those of us who are in the trenches to represent and understand the issues we, as a profession, face? Who is going to do the heavy lifting and advocating for our profession if we are not willing to step up and do it for ourselves?

Together, we can make a difference. The value of volunteer work benefits your professional associations and you. I could enumerate a variety of reasons to volunteer, but you know many of them already. Think about this: You make time for what matters to you. My profession matters to me. I sincerely hope it matters to you. We need you. We need more than your dues. We need your participation. We need your voice. We need your input and ideas. We need you at all levels, whether it is state or national. I urge you to be brave. Volunteer.

Why do I volunteer?

I volunteer to give back to a profession that I love. I volunteer to pay it forward and to thank those along the way who reached out a helping hand, gave me a word of advice, offered reassurance, and sometimes provided a swift kick in the rear or a shoulder to cry on. Volunteering is my way of saying thanks for making sure I passed muster, to thank those who came before me and those who will continue long after me. Thank you for being there.


Allison A. Kimmel, RDR, CRR, CRC, works as a reporter in the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio, and as an adjunct faculty member for the court reporting and captioning program at Clark State Community College.

Meeting the demand: The CRC experience

Attendees at the CRC Workshop at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas

By Carol Studenmund

At the NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) Certification Committee hosted the third annual CRC Workshop. For one-and-a-half days, six members of the CRC Committee taught 68 registrants both beginning and advanced lessons regarding broadcast and CART captioning. The Written Knowledge Test was offered immediately following the workshop. The CRC Workshop is one of three requirements of the CRC program, along with a Written Knowledge Test and a Skills Test.

NCRA members are seeing more and more requests from clients that captioners hold national certifications, and many of these clients want to see copies of certifications. This demand comes from local governments, educational institutions, and judicial systems that need to meet ADA requests from the public.

Instructors Heidi Thomas, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR; Karyn Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC; LeAnn Hibler, RMR, CRR, CRC; Stacey Potenza, CRC; and myself had way too much fun sharing our decades of experience in the captioning world. Our collective experience covers broadcast, education, theater, sports, stadium, high-tech, business, and web-based captioning. The purpose of the CRC Workshop is to provide both beginning and experienced captioners exposure to all aspects of this exciting field. Even though captioning is a well-established field, it is still relatively young compared to court reporting. Some captioners may be well versed in local news captioning and know nothing about educational or religious captioning, and vice versa.

Since the first CRC Workshop in New York City in 2015, the number of attendees has increased each year. This year, the increase was influenced by the Dec. 31, 2017, deadline for a large group of Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) holders. Members who passed the CRR Skills Test before Nov. 1, 2011, can earn the CRC by attending the CRC Workshop and passing the Written Knowledge Test before Dec. 31, 2017. Through November 2011, the CRR Skills Test consisted of literary material, just like the CRC Skills Test (the CRR Skills Test is now testimony material). The last opportunity in 2017 to take the CRC Written Knowledge Test is in October. Registration closes Sept. 30.

The CRC Workshop is also available online as a package of nine modules. Members who earned the CRR before 2011 and want to earn the CRC by Dec. 31 may watch the online workshop.

Our team of instructors knows only too well how quickly technology changes in the world of captioning. But the one aspect of captioning that remains the same is the need to write cleanly and conflict free. The CRC Workshop includes instruction about basic realtime writing for captioning. We cover the need to use prefixes and suffixes along with basic root words. We also talk about the never-ending need to prepare for upcoming assignments.

Technology has expanded the field of captioning from TV encoders to the internet. New platforms for online meetings develop every year. Competing caption streaming services bring new solutions that expand our capabilities all the time. Our instructors tried to cover the various methods of displaying our captions with an eye to future developments.

The captioning world grows every year, and the demand for qualified captioners is stronger than ever. Our committee looks forward to welcoming more and more Certified Realtime Captioners in the coming year.

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a broadcast captioner in Portland, Ore., and co-chair of the NCRA Certified Realtime Captioner Certification Committee. She can be reached at

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.

What can you do in a month to earn CEUs?

A middle-aged white woman listens attentively during a workshop while taking notes.The Sept. 30 deadline for this year’s CEU cycle is coming up quickly, but there’s still time to earn a few more last-minute credits, both in person and online. Even if your CEU cycle isn’t ending this year, these ideas can help you stay on track and possibly even get that requirement done early.

Attend a webinar or e-seminar

Webinars and e-seminars are a great way to learn some new skills in the comfort of your own home and, in terms of e-seminars, on your own schedule. There are three 90-minute live webinars scheduled for this September:

If none of these webinars fit your schedule, check out the NCRA e-seminar library for 60- and 90-minute sessions on topics that include business, CART and captioning, ethics, grammar and language, history, official reporting, personal development, realtime, technology, and more.

Attend a pre-approved event, including state association conferences

Many state associations and other court reporter–related organizations are hosting conferences and seminars in September. In-person events give you the opportunity to network with other reporters and captioners while earning CEUs. Most events are one to three days, and several of them are in the first half of the month. Events are scheduled in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana/Wyoming/Idaho, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as Alberta, Canada, this month. Check out the full calendar of pre-approved events here, which includes the dates, location (geographic or online), and number of CEUs.

Learn CPR or first aid

The American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, and other organizations often host seminars on CPR or first aid. Perhaps you can organize a few colleagues from your firm, court, or even your local area to team up for an event nearby. Court reporters and captioners have to be prepared for anything, so why not add safety to your list of skills? Learn more about the requirements for earning CEUs by learning CPR or first aid on

Transcribe oral histories

Members who participate in the Oral Histories Program through the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) may earn Professional Development Credits for their time. Members can apply up to 1.0 PDC to their CEU requirement per cycle. Transcribe a 30- to 90-minute pre-recorded interview of an American veteran, Holocaust survivor, or attorney who has provided pro bono services through Legal Aid. Many people find participating in the Oral Histories Program to be especially rewarding. “As court reporters, we sometimes are too focused on the financial side of what we do, but (volunteering) is giving back. Anyone thinking of participating in one of these events should just jump right in and do it. It’s well worth it,” said Kimberly Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI, an official court reporter from Arlington, Texas, and a U.S. Air Force veteran, who recently volunteered at NCRF’s third Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project initiative at the 86th Military Order of the Purple Heart 2017 Convention held in Dallas. Learn more at

Get credit for past events

You may have already participated in activities that have helped you earn CEUs or PDCs during the last year, and the only thing you need to do is fill out the proper form to get credit. If you promoted the profession at a career fair, law school, or other event; provided pro bono services; served on a state association board or committee (including the United States Court Reporting Association); or participated in a formal mentoring program, you may qualify for credit for your volunteerism. You can submit these CEUs and PDCs here.

Cycle extensions

If you need a four-month cycle extension (to Jan. 31) to finish those last CEUs, you can fill out the CEU extension request form by Sept. 30. Note that the deadline to complete CEUs or to request an extension is the same date.

View the full list of qualified continuing education activities at View other continuing education forms here or view your current transcript here. If you have any questions, please contact the NCRA credentialing coordinator.

Test Advisory Committee meets at NCRA headquarters

Members of NCRA's Test Advisory Committee. Karyn Menck attended remotely.

Members of NCRA’s Test Advisory Committee. Karyn Menck attended remotely.

The NCRA Test Advisory Committee met June 8-11 at NCRA headquarters in Reston, Va. During the meeting, the committee used technology to approve written knowledge tests with Pearson Vue and approved skills tests for 2018. In total, the committee wrote 73 tests and accepted 58 tests.

Karyn Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC, attended the meeting remotely. “It was very useful to be able to participate when I couldn’t make the trip to be there in person,” she said. “It allowed me to caption and manage a large event for my company in the evenings. I was able to write prospective tests on my machine as they were dictated to the group and help decide whether they would be used or if there were areas that needed reworking, as well as review questions for the written exam. It allowed me to be a part of the meeting even though I couldn’t make the trip. And while I did miss the comradery of dinner with my peers in the evenings, it was the next best thing.”

“It was great having a member who was willing to test out the technology” for attending remotely, said Cynthia Andrews, NCRA Director of Professional Development Programs. “Her feedback will allow me to improve the process in the future.”

The Test Advisory Committee members include:

  • Russell L. Page, Jr., Washington, DC
  • Diane L. Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, CPE, Oro Valley, AZ
  • Robin Cooksey, RMR, Houston, TX
  • Wade S. Garner, RPR, CPE, Edmonton, AB
  • Robyn M. Hennigan, RPR, CRI, Springfield, OH
  • Tonya J. Kaiser, RPR, CMRS, Fort Wayne, IN
  • Donna J. Karoscik, RDR, CRR, CRC, Pickerington, OH
  • Deborah A. Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, St. Louis, MO
  • Karyn D. Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC, Nashville, TN
  • Janice Plomp, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, St. Albert, AB
  • Susan D. Wasilewski, RPR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, Lakeland, FL
  • Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR, Miami, FL

“Russell Page and I are so proud of how far the Test Advisory Committee has come in being able to produce the volume of skills tests required for online testing. It wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of the dedicated individuals on both the Test Advisory Committee and Skills Committee along with Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRR, and Lesia Mervin, RMR, CRR, co-chairs of the Skills Test Writing Committee,” said Diane Sonntag, who serves as co-chair along with Russell Page. “Each test is written, debated, and tweaked to be the best test it can be. We are hoping all of our members will take advantage of our hard work and sign up to obtain those valuable NCRA certifications today!”

Meet the 2016-2017 NCRA New Professionals Advisory Committee members

New professionals_collageWe are an enthusiastic group of new court reporters from throughout the country with the drive and passion to continue the advancement of the court reporting industry through advocacy and education specifically designed for the new professional.

What we do:

  • We provide training resources geared towards the new professional.
  • We spotlight our new colleagues who have made an impact in our industry from an early stage.
  • We promote the benefit of higher certification and participation in NCRA and state associations.
  • We advocate for the new professional by introducing new methods of assistance and guidance that can specifically benefit a new reporter.

The purpose of this introduction is to give new professionals an outlet, to provide a method of communication between new professionals and NCRA, and to provide positive correspondence that all NCRA members can look forward to.


Rachel Barkume Photo_resizedI have been an official reporter for four years, a licensed CSR for six years this coming July, and an RPR for five years. My favorite thing about being a court reporter is the unique bond I share with other court reporters. I have never felt more of a sense of community. I also enjoy telling others about my career, explaining in the easiest way I can think of how my “little machine” works, and working with my judge and courtroom staff. A future goal of mine is to refine my dictionary and realtime skills to eventually become a captioner!

Rachel Barkume, RPR, CSR

Oakhurst, California

Melissa Case_squareI am an official court reporter for the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas. My favorite thing about being a court reporter is that I’m constantly learning something every single day. My future goals are to pass the RMR and CRR and compete in state competitions.

Melissa Case, RPR

Cleveland, Ohio

Danielle GriffinI am a freelancer: Just got my RPR in August of 2016. Woot! I am a second-generation reporter, and most of all, I love working with my mom. I have grown up working at the office for many years and have worked all positions in the office. It is so exciting to be working as a reporter and now working alongside my mom. I am currently working towards my RMR and CRR, and continuing to refine my writing.

Danielle C. Griffin, RPR, AZ CR, NM CR

Cave Creek, Arizona

Jordan Groves_squareI am a freelancer. I love doing something different every day. No two jobs are ever the same, and that keeps it fun. I also love the flexibility of not working every day and being able to take off on a whim to go on field trips with the kids, et cetera. I’m not sure I could ever work normal work hours after having these freelance hours. I’m currently working on passing the RPR, and after that, I’m going to tackle the CRR.

Jordan Groves, CCR

Montgomery, Alabama

Hensley PicI am born and raised in Southern California and currently live in Chicago, Ill. I have been a freelance reporter since January 2016. My favorite thing about being a reporter is that every day is a new and different adventure. I am energized by change, and I enjoy walking into a new environment with each job I accept. My future goal is to always be learning and developing my skills to become the best reporter I can be. Currently I’m aiming for RMR and CRR certifications with the intent to participate in the national speed contests.

Michael Hensley, RPR, CSR

Chicago, Illinois

MikeyI’ve been a freelance reporter since August of 2012. My favorite thing about being a freelance court reporter is the flexibility that it allows me. I’m essentially my own boss, make my own hours, decide what my earning potential is, and have the freedom to get out of this career whatever I put into it. As someone who was in a cubicle working 9-5 for a few years, I love that every day is a new adventure in a new place with different people and a different story. My future goals consist of adding both CRR and RMR credentials after my name, opening up my own agency someday, and to help as many people as I can obtain their goals of becoming stenographers as attending and completing court reporting school was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Mikey McMorran, RPR, CSR

San Diego, California

Jennifer PortoI was a CART provider for nine years. It was truly rewarding, and I honestly loved going to work every day. My passion was working with deaf/hard of hearing students providing one-on-one CART, but I also loved the challenge of projecting captions for large audiences at venues such as city council meetings, TEDxCaltech, and for Yahoo. I was getting paid to learn; how lucky could a girl be? In May of 2016, I decided it was time for a new challenge, and I made the jump to being a deposition reporter. Every day is a different adventure and nothing is predictable. I learn something new daily, and I’m humbled at the tenacity, endurance, and organization it takes to not just be a good reporter, but to be a great reporter.

Jennifer Porto, CSR

Long Beach, California

Written Knowledge Test Committee meets at NCRA headquarters

IMG_5176NCRA’s Written Knowledge Test Committee met at NCRA headquarters May 5 and 6. The committee reviewed more than 260 questions for the RPR and RDR Written Knowledge Tests and archived outdated questions. Members also had additional training on the item writing platform.

“It was truly an eye-opening experience where we all collaborated respectfully, learned from each other, and truly demonstrated team initiative towards the betterment of our profession,” said Geanell Adams, RMR, CRR, CRI.

L-R: Carrie Robinson, Wade Garner, Cindy Cheng, Angela Starbuck, Geanell Adams, and Vonni Bray

L-R: Carrie Robinson, Wade Garner, Cindy Cheng, Angela Starbuck, Geanell Adams, and Vonni Bray

The Item Writing Committee members include:

  • Geanell Adams, RMR, CRR, CRI
  • Vonni Bray, RDR, CRR
  • Laura Brewer, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Wade Garner, RPR, CPE
  • Cassandra Hall, RPR
  • Allison Kimmel, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Holly Moose, FAPR, RDR, CRR
  • Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR
  • Carrie Robinson, RPR, CRI
  • Angela Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC

Cindy Cheng, a consultant for Pearson Vue, also attended the meeting. Kimmel and Mueller attended remotely via GoToMeeting. “With my schedule being so fluid, attending remotely really helped me out so much,” said Mueller.