These are some of the basic things proofreaders look for when going over a transcript. Now, every court reporter has their own style which any good proofreader can adjust to, but I feel it’s nice to give a bit of insight to some of what proofreaders look for.
This is when a court reporter makes a note of an interruption of some kind, such as someone leaving the courtroom or that they are going off the record. How they are formatted is the most important thing a proofreader looks for here. They should be center aligned and put in parenthesis.
By-lines are easily the most overlooked mistakes in a transcript. They are lines that appear before Q&A and indicate who is speaking. If it’s not clear in a transcript who is speaking, things can go very awry in a courtroom. The whole reason for a transcript is so that we don’t have to rely on fuzzy memories, what-ifs, “I don’t remember,” or “I think.” If someone files an appeal, or there’s a dispute in a case about who said what, if the by-lines are incorrect, it’s difficult to settle a dispute.
In a case that’s days, weeks, months, or even years long, or if a certain case is referenced, if there’s an error in the by-lines, it could completely destroy the credibility of who said what. Did the witness contradict a previous statement, or were they even talking? Did the defendant’s lawyer get caught purjuring themselves, or was it the plaintiff’s lawyer speaking? An entire case could get tossed because of these errors, and it’s up to the proofreader to catch them before it’s too late.
Colloquy is any back-and-forth conversation between people in the proceeding that is not Q&A. For this reason, colloquy is usually between a judge and lawyer. If a defendant enters a plea bargain, colloquy can also be the conversation between the judge and defendant so the judge can be sure the defendant understands what they are agreeing to and what rights are being waived. In a criminal court, a colloquy is the investigation into the defendant’s plea to ensure the defendant understands the charges against them, what penalties they face, what rights they have before entering a guilty plea, and that it was given knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently.
It is of the utmost importance that the colloquy is clear of any confusion that could be caused by a misspelling, improper punctuation, transposed or missing words, or generally confusing sentences. Failure to do so could cause reasonable doubt and get the whole case thrown out.
Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes
Hyphens (-) are the smallest of the three dashes. The hyphen connects words that work together as a single concept or joint modifier. Full-length, mother-in-law, and five-year-old are all examples of correct uses of a hyphen.
En dashes (–) are slightly longer than a hyphen and connects things that are related by distance or that have a range. Page numbers in an index (1–8); report or results of contests (20–13; conflict (the nature–nurture debate), connection (New York–Colorado flight), or direction (east–west); or when connecting words or prefixes to open compounds, especially proper open compounds (pre–World War II).
Em dashes (—) are the longest of the three dashes. It can be used in a similar fashion to parenthesis in that it can break away from a sentence to add an additional thought—like wondering who thought up the em dash. They are also used to show interruptions in a sentence.