Ghastly grammar gremlins that will make you scream like it’s Halloween

When it comes to transcripts, it pays to watch for these grammar gremlins. NCRA’s Proofreading Advisory Council made a list of the ghastliest grammar and spelling errors it has seen. Be warned: These are the kinds of errors that might drive your favorite court reporter, captioner, scopist, or proofreader insane!

Judith A. Lehman, RMR, CRI, Shelbyville, Ill.:

Backyard as one word gives me the heebie jeebies. I know various sources list that as a proper spelling, but why? Frontyard? Sideyard? I think not.

Bobbi J. Fisher, RPR, Surfside Beach, S.C.:

When I went to Planet Fitness, the walls were splattered with “Judgement Free Zone” — judgement with the e … on everything!

And a sneaky word is segue, which is pronounced “seg-way,” as in “that was a good segue into that topic.” I think a lot of people might not realize that’s how it’s spelled. Segway is the proper name for the machine you ride around on.

How about the controversy of email vs. e-mail or cell phone vs. cellphone?

And don’t cap social security number. Only cap the Social Security Administration, per Morson’s English Guide for Court Reporters and Margie Wakeman Wells’ books on English.

Susan M. Horak, RDR, CRR, Columbus, Ohio:

Worse case instead of worst case. It’s best case, worst case.

Rational and rationale. Rational means sane, and rationale means this is why you made that decision.

Kathleen McHugh, RPR, CRR, Audubon, N.J.:

Affect and effect. Need I say more?

Aimee Suhie, New Fairfield, Conn.:

How about than and then? Believe it or not, a very famous food writer has misused then in two separate columns!

Janine A. Ferren, RPR, CRR, Fishers, Ind.:

You’re vs. your is one of them, and a period outside of the quotes is another. Boo!


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 “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 “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 “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.

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.

New webinar tackles English grammar gremlins

NCRA’s Education Department has announced a new webinar titled English Grammar Gremlins: Ways to Conquer Them. Many speakers and writers will use the wrong word when they speak and write. This session offers a refresher course to help attendees correct these errors.

Led by Santo “Joe” Aurelio, Ed.D., FAPR, RDR, the webinar will embrace commonsense ways for attendees to learn and remember how to always speak and write using the correct word. The 90-minute seminar is on April 5 from 6-7:30 p.m. ET, at a cost of $99. Attendees can earn 0.15 CEU.

Aurelio was an official court reporter for 39 years. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University and a doctorate in education from Boston University, and he now is a visiting professor at colleges in the Boston, Mass., area. He teaches a variety of subjects but mainly English grammar and medicolegal terminology.

Aurelio has written extensively on English grammar, Black English, Judeo-Christian religion, sexist language, classical art, discrimination, word etymology, adult basic education, Jewish and Italian immigration, legal terms, and mnemonics.

Aurelio spends most of his time teaching, engaging in research, and writing. He has four sons and lives with his wife of 50 years in Arlington, Mass.

For more information or to register, visit NCRA’s webinar library.

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


NCRA members share proofreading tips

Photo by: Véronique Debord-Lazaro

In honor of National Punctuation Day, which is celebrated every year on Sept. 24, NCRA asked members of the Proofreading Advisory Council for their best proofreading tips.

Doreen Sutton, RPR, of Scottsdale, Ariz.: “I prefer the printed copy to proofread; I think you catch more. I also make certain that I have no other distractions, i.e., no television or radio, or cell phone — although sometimes my cell phone is close by; I put it on mute. I go to my favorite chair or bed and turn on lots of light, and I can make good, accurate progress.”

Mary Daniel, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, of Las Vegas, Nev.: “When proofing a transcript, I find that proofing without audio raises my level of concentration. It’s too easy to miss small words when following along with audio.”

Karen Teig, RPR, CRR, CMRS, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa: “I have to turn off the television and music so I can concentrate on what I’m reading. I wish it were otherwise, but I’m most accurate reading on paper. I wonder why that is.”

Aimee Suhie, RPR, of New Fairfield, Conn.: “My original boss, Lisa Campano, taught me to circle the line number in which there is/are correction/corrections when I proof the hard copy (always!). This way I spot the correction immediately.”

Early Langley, RMR, of Danville, Calif.: “I don’t have the benefit of a hard copy to read because I’m on the road too much. To make up for that, so I don’t lose concentration, I get up every once in a while and have a glass of water. I also change the screen to a different view in my CAT software, i.e., full page, normal view, and sometimes PDF. I look at the transcript in the format that the attorneys will see it. I also check the TP, the footers and the headers, and the appearances to make sure they all match. I use automatic indexing. That saves time and improves index accuracy significantly. I also use a scopist. It’s easy to overlook my mistakes, and another person’s eyes help to prevent that.”

20 embarrassing phrases even smart people misuse

Inc. recently published an article on 20 idioms that are commonly misspelled even on reputable websites. The article compares the actual spelling with the most common misspelling and even includes some background on how some of the idioms came about.

Read more.

Celebrate English during National Grammar Day on March 4

In an interview on the website Grammarist, Lisa McLendon, also known as Madam Grammar, says: “If you know a little bit about linguistics and grammar, you are a more savvy media consumer, you can spot hedging or weaknesses in arguments, and you are aware of how people can mislead through language. On the more positive side, you understand why a well-written sentence works, how to find ‘just the right word,’ and how English got to be the glorious muddle it is today.” March 4 is National Grammar Day, the perfect day to celebrate the muddled English language.

National Grammar Day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. Brockenbrough is also the author of Things That Make Us [Sic]. Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl, is hosting the 2015 event, although dozens of teachers, editors, writers, and journalists are celebrating as well.

In his blog Literal-Minded, Neal Whitman remembers he first found it interesting “to explore the parts of the grammar that might not be in the textbooks and find out what was going on” and suggests that National Grammar Day is a good opportunity to learn something new about the English language. On the lighter side, the American Copy Editors Society is sponsoring the National Grammar Day Tweeted Haiku Contest. Arika Okrent, linguist, author, and Mental Floss contributor, won last year’s contest with these lines:

I am an error

And I will reveal myself

After you press send

John McIntyre, who edits for the Baltimore Sun, hosts a Grammarnoir serial podcast, the first of which broadcast in 2009 on the first National Grammar Day. Richard Nordquist, who is the grammar and composition expert at, has a National Grammar Day Grammar Quiz. also has a fun online quiz: What kind of grammar nerd are you?

Overall, the Gordon Group, LLC, “a marketing consulting, public relations, social media, branding and tagline development, copywriting, copyediting, and proofreading firm,” reminds us that National Grammar Day is “a good day to reflect on the caliber of your written communications, including emails, blog posts, Tweets, brochures, trade-show collateral, and all of the rest, including your business cards, which don’t have a lot of real estate but are critical to messaging who you are.” So celebrate National Grammar Day by sharing what you love about the English language, your biggest pet peeves, or a fascinating fact about grammar on NCRA’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

How dictionary-makers decide which words to include

On Aug. 27, The Economist blog posted an article about how dictionaries choose which words to include and how this differs between print and online dictionaries. The post was prompted by Oxford Dictionaries’ additions earlier this month. The post quoted Erin McKean, a lexicographer formerly of Oxford and now of Wordnik, an online dictionary, who compared dictionary-makers to fishermen who seek to record words in active use rather than differentiating between “good” words and slang or neologisms.

Read more.