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Punctuation is Powerful0715
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by: Antoinette Franks, CET

Ready, Set... Oh, Wait ... Not Yet - The False Start

One of the most common things we as transcribers run into is the infamous "false start" or stutter. And at times, we can get caught up in exactly what to do with these little monsters, as they can get really out of hand when it comes to testimony. First, it helps to know the characteristics of a false start or stutter. The major identifying characteristic is repetition of the same word or words. A false start would occur at the beginning of your sentence, whereas a stutter holds the same characteristics but can occur anywhere in a sentence.

     False Start - I, I, I didn't mean to do that.

     Stutter - Well, I think I'm going to be, to be leaving at 9 p.m. tonight.

The only difference between a false start and a stutter is where they are placed. Otherwise, they are identical. False starts and stutters make for a horrible read and can impede the reader's ability to comprehend the content if these occur too often. Consequently, the general rule of thumb is you remove a false start or stutter for the sake of readability, to allow the reader the ability to fluidly read through the written content. The two sentences above would be corrected to read as follows:

     False Start - I didn't mean to do that.

     Stutter - Well, I think I'm going to be leaving at 9 p.m. tonight.

The sentences are much more fluid and the unnecessary words that can cause the reader to stumble through content have been removed. That being said, in our industry, there is something you must remember. The word or phrase in a false start will ALWAYS be identical in verbiage and separated by commas. If there is even the slightest difference, this is not a false start or stutter, and you cannot remove it. That slight difference takes us into an area we all commonly refer to as a "change in thought." While the content may mean the same, the verbiage is different. And in this case, the punctuation required is our wonderful little friend, the dash. However, that is a topic for another day.

So remember, if you're typing and you kind of get that feeling of a "scratched record" or the thought of wait a minute, start over, then you just may want to take a closer look to decide whether you just may have a false start and can remove it, because life is always easier without them.

By Antoinette Franks, AAERT Certified Electronic Transcriber


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