By: Karen Kelly Larson, RPR
Don’t pretend to be puzzled by the Christmas greeting; you reporters out there all know that that would be a blatant falsehood. Every time reporters see that misplaced apostrophe, be it on a greeting card, a mailbox, whatever, it makes them want to stick a red pen in their eyeball. If we’re puzzled by anything, it’s the context within which the apostrophe is used: Merry Christmas from “the” Larson’s what? Or why is only ONE of the Larsons sending Christmas greetings? Have all the other Larsons been inadvertently offended?
Such is the plight of court reporters: It is impossible to blithely peruse the written world which surrounds us without mentally red-penning all the errors that we perceive within it. A personal case in point occurred when I attended my father-in-law’s company-sponsored retirement banquet. A beautiful, glossy brochure that chronicled his career had been given to those assembled for the event, but rather than admiring this testimonial, all that went through my mind as I read it was, “Geez, they REALLY should have had me proof this before it went to the printer.”
I am enough of a realist to accept the fact that I have achieved geezer status, and I also acknowledge that the English language is not a static, inanimate object, but rather an ever-evolving, living organism, which is a puffed-up way of saying that I know that many things that were once considered incorrect spelling and/or grammar usage have now become the norm, and even dictionary-entry fact (“ginormous” anyone?). Still, the college language major in me cannot help but lament how far afield “acceptable” seems to have traveled. I understand the need for brevity and brief forms when texting (don’t all court reporters?), but the posting atrocities perpetrated on sites such as Facebook make a vein reminiscent of the River Nile rise and pulse in the middle of my forehead. Then there is the decade-long battle that my son Sam and I have waged over the importance of proper language structure. When I would express my disgust at his penchant for skewering his gifted prose with spelling and punctuation flubs, his standard response was, “Mom, the teachers don’t care about that,” and the sordid truth is that for far too many years, they really didn’t; their focus was more on content than structure, with little or no penalty for crimes against the King’s speech (sorry; just couldn’t resist getting that one in there). I would darkly warn Sam that the time would come when it WAS going to matter and that then he would BEG me to red-pen his papers – and it did come, in the form of AP European History in his sophomore year (and yes, he did beg).
I think the plain truth is that in this era of immediacy — shorter, faster, NOW – how we communicate information has changed, largely as a result of technological advances (in fact, keyboard usage is so prevalent that many schools no longer teach cursive handwriting), so oftentimes structural language formalities get kicked to the curb in favor of just “gitting ‘er done,” while we court reporters, as a profession, pride ourselves on “gitting ‘er right.” The world, unfortunately, refuses to yield to our will, so it behooves us to cultivate a mental squint and to quiet the itchy hand that clutches a red pen. We shall content ourselves with being secretly smug that our own transcripts are a true paradigm – the gold standard, done right, every time.
There is, however, one exception to the “squint” rule, at least for this reporter: For those making entries on the family grocery list, if they don’t spell it right, I’m not going to buy it.