By: Kara Solheid – RPR
I’ve found myself asking this question lately. I have twin boys who will be seniors in high school next year. They are not identical. They have their normal sibling rivalry and disagreements. They are sometimes worst enemies and other times best friends. But the one thing they do agree on is, “Never, ever give Mom a paper to proof if you haven’t gone through it with a fine-tooth comb first.” Now, I just smile to myself knowing that they’re checking and double-checking spelling, grammar, and punctuation, grumbling all the while, but it’s for their own good, right? Plus, I think it’s finally becoming habit. Or is it something else?
As court reporters, we edit and spell-check everything from newspaper and magazine articles to billboards and, yes, children’s books. I’ll admit it. Even back in the early childhood days of reading books aloud to my boys, if there was a spelling error found, I would point it out. I just couldn’t help myself. It didn’t mean anything to them back then, but it’s what we court reporters do. It’s in our blood. Or is it? Were we always this way or is this a learned behavior from our job? We tirelessly scour the internet and documents looking for the correct spelling of a proper name or a medical or technical term. We fret over whether something is hyphenated, capitalized, apostrophe “s” or “s” apostrophe. If it’s a word we’re not familiar with, we naturally need to know the definition to go along with the spelling.
I’m sure there are other professions that have some of these same traits and characteristics, but as court reporters, we do something that is unique only to us. We create a brief form of writing our new word so that the next time someone says it, no matter where we’re working that particular day, it shows up on our screen perfectly spelled and punctuated. The brief form we create cannot be assigned to any other word in our steno dictionary or it will translate into the wrong word the next time we write it. It’s similar to translating one foreign language into a completely different foreign language except with the added requirement that it must all be verbatim, exact. We have extensive training, practice, and expertise when it comes to the rules of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and take pride in perfection.
So, back to nature versus nurture. My sons are very much like my husband, who is an electrical engineer. All three are very analytical, methodical. There is a mathematical solution to every problem. They process things differently than I do. But the other day one of my sons happened to mutter a comment about a misspelled word in something he was reading. It came straight from his lips, out of thin air, just like second nature. Once he realized what he had done, I’m not sure if the expression on his face was, “What did I just say,” or “Oh no, I sound just like my mother!” Of course, his brother heard the comment, too, and also made the connection. So, I wonder, did a little bit of court reporter genetics get passed on or has the court reporter passed on a valuable lesson and appreciation for correct spelling, punctuation, grammar and perfection?