False Start

A false start may be anything from a syllable to a sentence fragment.

Repeated words, phrases, or syllables are at times indicative of a person’s thought patterns, speech patterns, or personality traits, or of a speaker’s effort to emphasize an element of communication. Sometimes an interviewee may be deliberately ambiguous or turgid for reasons of his or her own. Where to draw the line in deleting false-start material from the transcript is a difficult decision. We strive to follow a middle course, leaving in enough to indicate individual speech patterns. If repetition is for emphasis as reflected in the voice of the interviewee, the repetition is always retained.

Do not indicate stuttering.

Incomplete sentences are familiar occurrences in oral history because of its conversational nature. They are best ended with an em dash —. On a Mac, the em dash is created by Shift-Option-hyphen.

  • You spoke of the lack of success in teaching, but was the, is there a connection between your passion as an educator and your passion for communicating beyond the walls of academe?
  • For those whom you have seen come through that community as well during your journey, have you seen the, any further interdisciplinary dimension of the appeal of Torrance theology?
  • So what advice would you give an aspiring minister or lay leader in a church, uh, for making this translation effort from the pulpit to the — or from the scholar’s study — to the pew?
  • I would love to have written a little bit more about the sheer delight of reading about a young David as he was then, staying with his brother and the episode with the bees and getting stung, you know, when he was just about to get — I’d love to have dwelt a little bit longer on some of these really lively funny episodes.
  • But he gave it his best shot as far — as I understand it, I’m not party to all these past, um, past events.
  • It's wonderful to hear sometimes what they’re doing and.
  • I loved, um, virtually the second book I read was Theology and Reconstruction closely followed by Time, Space and Resurrection, followed by Time, Space, and Incarnation, which I didn’t really understand terribly well.

Commas may be used to indicate a false start. In this example, a comma is used to indicate a “soft” false start:

  • And this has been a, this has engaged students continually through many different cohorts of students, and these are students who are not just studying for the Church of Scotland ministry but it includes international students as well.


False starts that completely shift the direction of a sentence should be capitalized; false starts that do not completely shift the direction of a sentence should remain lowercase.
Who — do you remember the name of the dean who greeted you?