Hansard: my verdict

Dear Naz Shah,

The subject of Hansard recently came up in my English lessons and how the accounts are supposedly ‘edited verbatim’. The term in itself is almost oxymoronic- how can an account be exact and original yet also condensed and modified? Thus followed the debate: ‘should Hansard be edited or left completely in verbatim’, which brought up excellent points to be considered for either side. In this report I would like to present you with these points and explain the reason as to why I believe Hansard should be left in verbatim.

It is understandablenge that Hansard accounts should be edited in order to leave such important documents without informalities such as fillers and elisions. To leave these in may be seen as improper as the accounts should be formally presented and recorded for later reference.

Moreover, the minor alterations made when verbatim is edited make very little difference to the content of the account altogether, yet editing makes the account easier to read for future reference and eliminates any spoken mistakes that may have been said subconsciously.

Adding to this point, the meagre editing done to Hansard accounts bears next to no relevance to the content. The content and what is being said (though not necessarily word for word) is of most significance, therefore as long as key content is taken down and properly recorded with no amendments, no harm is done. Leaving in features such as pronouns would be inappropriate as they are only contextually relevant and not actually relevant to the content of the account.

On the contrary, editing verbatim also eliminates useful features such as pauses, which are relevant when used clearly for effect as it shows a dialogue intended for an audience.  A transcript version of Hansard- unchanged and original, would contain features which could give the reader an insight as to how the dialogue was said and whether such features were used purposefully or just as time to contemplate what should be said next, thus showing a lack of preparation on the speaker’s part.

Likewise, in editing verbatim important things may get lost in translation. For example, fillers (eg. like, um, uh) and false or repetitive starts may suggest a lack in confidence or preparation and so it may be that a weak point has been presented and not been thought out beforehand. By removing features like this, Hansard is presenting accounts as solid sets of dialogue spoken confidently which isn’t necessarily the case.

Additionally, verbatim doesn’t need editing; it show
s the realistic, true to form version of events and if edited or in any way adjusted, the report is no longer true to form or exact, and thus less reliable.

To conclude, I believe that in the future Hansard should leave their verbatim unedited as a lot can be deduced from the imperfections made through spoken language, which would be eliminated through editing. In addition, the accounts would serve as an exact record of the events inside court which would be of more use than amended versions which may not serve as the full truth.


One thought on “Hansard: my verdict

  1. Good work here. Thorough, detailed and uses subject terminology.

    1.1 – Formal letters usually start with title & last name, eg Ms Shah.
    1.2 – ‘Should Hansard be edited…’ – needs a question mark.
    1.3 – left in verbatim – probably ‘reported verbatim’ would be more accurate.

    2.1 – No real issues but some more explanation of how the inclusion of fillers etc might embarrass MPs or make them seem unprofessional might add to your good point.

    3.1 – This is a very, very good point. However, you are misusing the word ‘verbatim’: it’s an adjective used to describe the report and is synonymous with ‘exact’; frequently you need to add a noun to this word in your report, eg ‘when THE verbatim REPORT is edited make very little…’

    4.1 – A well-argued paragraph. However, they do leave ‘pronouns’ in – change this for other features of spontaneous speech which are removed / edited by Hansard.

    5.1 – Again, well argued. More detail on how those reading the record might think of the speaker could help here.

    6+7 – A tad rushed, maybe? Problems with ‘verbatim’ again – see it as the antonym of edited.

    Overall – Maybe some subheadings would make it more readable and more quickly understood as a report. In general, though, I enjoyed reading it. Everything I asked for, detailed, thoughtful, balanced and evaluative. I am very pleased.


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