Transcription Tips: Proper Punctuation and Common Mistakes to Avoid

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

Transcription, like other writing vocations, still requires the transcriptionist to follow proper punctuation and steer clear from common mistakes. Sometimes, when transcriptionists are an hour in the transcription, it gets even more rigorous and this is where the most common mistakes happen. Even the basic punctuation and grammar problems might pop up every once in a while.

Here are 10 of the most common punctuation mistakes of transcription:

1. Extraneous Apostrophes

Problem: Apostrophes being placed where they shouldn’t be placed

Example: This pickle is all your’s. For a huge discount!

Avoid: In the case above, make sure to use the plural form of the world so simply add an “s”. An apostrophe “ ‘ “ should be added when it is possessive just like “my friend’s sandwich.”

2. Improper use of quotation marks

Problem: Using single or maybe double quotation marks even when nothing is quoted.

Example: That place offers the ‘best pizza in town!’

Avoid: When not directly quoting anything, do not use either single or double quotation marks. If a specific part of the message should be emphasized, use either a bold or an italicized font.

3. Commas missing

Problem: Without the use of commas, the sentences will seem more like a run-on of text after text without any breaks.

Example: I wanted to go to the movies last night but as I neared the entrance it seemed like they were closed so I decided to go home.

Avoid: Try reading the sentence out loud and make sure to take notes of any breaks needed in the speech. Make sure to insert commas where pauses need to be or when changing gears within the said sentence.

4. Overuse of commas

Problem: This is the same common mistake as the lack of commas. It's possible for some to go overboard with comma usage.

Example: She went to the mall, but they seemed to be closed, so she decided to go back to the car, turned on the radio, backed out, then decided to go home.

Avoid: Although there’s technically no specific set of rules when it comes to basic comma usage, the eyes should be the best judge of its overuse. Once the transcriptionist gets the feeling that it’s been used way too much in a single sentence, try replacing some of the commas with a period.

5. Excess use of exclamation

Problem: The overuse of exclamation points within a body of work kind of overwhelms the reader and also devalues every individual exclamation point.

Example: These headphones are the best! They’re proven to be the best! Get one today!

Avoid: Try being tasteful with the use of exclamation points. This means saving those big

booms at the end of a paragraph or only when certain sentences need to be emphasized.

6. Its vs. It’s

Problem: The misuse of both its and it’s is a common mistake users can make.

Example: I don’t really know who its going to hurt more, either me or you. Look straight into it’s eyes.

Avoid: It’s is the shortcut for “it is” or “it has.” Make sure to note that the apostrophe here does not signify it as possessive. The proper possessive form of its is just its.

7. Using Oxford Commas

Problem: The current lack of consistency when it comes to a method in using commas in lists can be quite infuriating for those grammar pros as well as casual readers. The Oxford comma, which is a particular comma found before the final item on a list, is pretty standard when it comes to British writing. In the United States, it has started to become commonplace to skip the use of the last comma, especially within journalism. However, the debate still continues.

Example with Oxford comma: Her favorite foods are sushi, fried chicken, and fish.

Example without Oxford comma: Her favorite foods are sushi, fried chicken and fish.

Avoid: Technically, there is no right or wrong when it comes to whether or not the transcriptionist chooses to use the Oxford comma. It is important, however, to be consistent in its usage or absence.

8. Dash (–) vs. hyphen (-)

Problem: All of the horizontal lines within the text aren’t really equal.

A good example of hyphen use: We ensure that everything is kept top-notch.

A good example of dash use: She prefers drinking out of a wine glass – it’s classier than using a mug.

Avoid: Make sure to use a hyphen (the small line) in order to combine two different words in order to create a singular idea. This is most frequently used in order to combine two different words into an adjective. Make sure to use a dash (the longer line with spaces both before and after) in order to indicate a separate idea or train of thought.

9. Colons vs. Semicolons

Problem: The use of semicolons and colons are confusing.

A good example of colon use: I made sure of the following: I took a bath, brushed my teeth, and ate my breakfast.

A good example of semicolon use: I can’t wait for the vacation; I’ve been too stressed out from work.

Avoid: Make sure to use a colon if the following will be a set of items. Use a semicolon to separate two related but still distinct thoughts. Use a semicolon to keep the thoughts together instead of a period to break the sentence.

10. Placement of the quotation mark

Problem: Sentence-ending punctuations should be included inside the quotation mark.

Bad example: ”I can’t wait to eat”!

Good example: “When are we going to finish?”

Avoid: In American English, the punctuation is included inside the quotation marks while British English excludes the punctuation in the quotation marks.

The use of online transcription software like allows for proper punctuation to be used as the transcriptionist tool gives auto-punctuation while it converts the audio to text. The use of transcription software not only cuts the time that a transcriptionist needs to give to the full transcription. also has an automatic punctuation feature which allows the basic punctuation marks to be included.

Need help with punctuation? Check out's transcription tool for auto-punctuation feature.

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