To listen to Donald Trump speak at one of his campaign rallies is to listen to a real estate developer turned reality television star do a pitch-perfect impression of a textbook demagogue and convince a fair number of people that he should become the next president of the United States.
Depending on which side of the aisle you're on (or whether you're a person of color, woman, immigrant, or religious minority), Trump's speeches are either awe or fear inducing, but there is a group of people out there for whom the GOP's presidential candidate talks are universally considered to be maddening: transcriptionists.
It's not just that Donald Trump's rhetoric is racist, sexist, and borderline insane, it's that it's literally hard to follow along and write as the man wildly jumps from one incoherent thought to another. In an interview with CNBC, ASC Services president Elizabeth Pennell explained that Trump's talks often left her firm, which puts out election-cycle transcripts for news networks, utterly baffled.
"Trump is a very sloppy speaker," Pennell told CNBC. "He is very hard to transcribe and because what he says can be such a bombshell and so badly parsed by the consuming public and the media, you just got to take so much more care."
Because of the disjointed, erratic way that Trump speaks, professionals in the transcription industry have taken to referring to him as the "em dash candidate," a reference to the punctuation frequently used to reflect a sudden break in thought that often occurs mid-sentence. As CNBC points out, Trump's style of speaking isn't just wreaking havoc on the transcriptionists themselves, but also the outlets who choose to publish his quotes.
Because Trump's lines of logic are so difficult to follow, transcripts often read like a patchwork of random thoughts that don't easily lend themselves to being published as text. A publication could try to parse a transcript to make sense of what Trump is saying, but doing so could potentially lead to the candidate accusing the publication of mischaracterizing his words.
"We're in a situation and a political atmosphere right now where you get a lot of people saying, 'Oh, you know, the liberal media took Mr. Trump out of context or asked a trick question or whatever, "The New York Times' David Sanger told Bob Schieffer about why the Times chose to publish its Trump transcripts. "I think these days in things as important as presidential interviews it is important that we do that."