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Given the statement "Vickery to Crann, Over" as radio communication, and knowing that over, as a radio procedure, is used to request a response from the person/group in which the radio procedure had targeted, would the use of Over be recognized as a question

Vickery to Crann, Over?

or a statement

Vickery to Crann, Over.

I searched both the Stack Exchange English site, as well as other areas but I'm unable to find a definitive use for this.

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    One-way voice communications where the channel is usurped by each speaker in turn are very rare nowadays. And punctuation is not used in voice communication. So I'd say use a question mark in transcription if the speaker used a rising intonation in saying Over; otherwise, just use a period. If you don't have the original recording, you're not responsible for punctuation. Jul 28, 2014 at 18:35
  • If you are transcribing one-way radio communications, treat "Over" like a complete sentence. (Just my opinion, but it makes sense to my addled mind.) One might translate the sentence from "Over" to "I am done talking for now."
    – Lumberjack
    Jul 28, 2014 at 19:59
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    @JohnLawler Radio communications across a range of frequency bands are far more common than you think. They are embedded in the communications systems used within aviation, emergency services, transport, security and military organisations worldwide. They are used everywhere and every day.
    – long
    Jul 28, 2014 at 23:55

2 Answers 2

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Effective radio communication is at the heart of most (if not all) major emergency services, military, aviation, transport and security service operations. Even the teaching staff at my son's school use two-way radio comms. It is so widespread, and yet deeply embedded in these systems that it is perhaps transparent to the general public. Yet, despite being so widespread, there are no consistent guidelines dictating how transcripts should be recorded. The answer, therefore, is that a number of methods are acceptable, and it largely depends on the organisation recording the transcript.

Over is a radio communications proword which means

my transmission is ended and I expect a reply.

So, it isn't actually a question, and so would not be written with a question mark, as your first example shows. There are a number of widely accepted prowords, and obviously many service-specific ones.

I am involved in teaching radio communications at an introductory level, and I checked all of the Radio Communications training manuals that I have access to (emergency services manuals for Australia and UK), and also had a quick look at some NASA transcripts. There are a range of approaches used for reporting radio transcripts. Wikipedia also has a few examples of radio transcripts on the above linked page.

There are three formats commonly used.

  1. The first is to use a comma before over, and generally between key phrases. For your example, then:

    Vickery to Cran, OVER.

    A longer transcript may be:

    Vickery THIS IS Cran, CONFIRMING arrival on scene, PROCEEDING north, REQUEST support to stage at base alpha, OVER.

  2. The second approach is to use no punctuation at all. For your example:

    Vickery to Cran OVER.

    A longer example:

    Vickery THIS IS Cran CONFIRMING arrival on scene PROCEEDING north REQUEST support to stage at base alpha OVER.

  3. The third approach (used by NASA) uses a range of punctuation, but notably records over as an individual sentence.

    For your example:

    Vickery to Cran. OVER.

    A longer example:

    Vickery, Cran. CONFIRMING arrival on scene. PROCEEDING north. REQUEST support to stage at base alpha. OVER.

One manual uses hyphens between all phrases: Vickery to Cran - over. It is quite difficult to read longer transcripts, so would not be my preference.

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  • I was able to get a hold of one of my past military commanders for an answer on official ways of transcription for radio communication, and it goes along with what you have stated in your answer - capitalizing the radio procedures. Perhaps I miscommunicated, as this is for novel writing and not transcription and the capitalization of these commands, when first reading them, seems obtrusive to me as a reader. However, this appears to be the correct way to transcribe these which is why I'm marking this answer as correct. Thank you for the detailed summary!
    – SQLSavant
    Jul 29, 2014 at 0:41
  • This is a great authoritative answer. I had been intending to check with the (ham and professional) radio operators in the family to beef up my answer, but that doesn't seem necessary now! @cloyd800 You're probably right about all-caps being a bit too heavy-handed for a novel dialog, but this should give you something to work with.
    – AmeliaBR
    Jul 29, 2014 at 15:46
  • An aside: when creating communications like this in a novel, please do not ever use the once common (but very very mistaken) OVER AND OUT at the end of a conversation. OVER means I'm done talking, I expect an answer. OUT means I'm done talking, this is the end of the conversation. Back when I was a kid, walkie-talkies were all the hype and kids were running around with them shouting "over and out"... a bad habit they picked up from poorly written adventure books and TV-series, I guess.
    – oerkelens
    Jul 29, 2014 at 16:27
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I don't think it's accurate to write it as a question.

The person saying "Over" is saying "I am done speaking now, you may reply." (See for example Wikipedia on Voice Procedure.) There's no question there to justify a question mark, and I suspect anyone inflecting it as a question would give themselves away as an inexperienced radio operator.

However, I'm also not entirely sure about

Vickery to Crann, Over.

The tacked-on word at the end is rather confusing. I would use more definitive punctuation to separate the message from the voice procedure statement:

Vickery to Crann; Over.

or

Vickery to Crann. Over.

(Which reminds me of the way I've seen telegraph messages written in old novels, when someone is reading them aloud: "Urgent. Stop. Come quickly. Stop.")

or finally, as @Brian Donovan suggested in the comments, if there is a chance that the procedure command could be confused with the content of the message, use:

Vickery to Crann. (Over.)

As @John Lawler notes in the comments to the main question, voice procedure is by definition a spoken standard, so I doubt you'll find definitve references for how it should be written down.

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  • Or "Vickery to Crann. (Over.)" Good correction to question's assumption that a definitive rule must be out there. Jul 28, 2014 at 18:42
  • Good suggestion. The parentheses could be useful in some contexts to clearly differentiate between the main conversation and the procedural statements.
    – AmeliaBR
    Jul 28, 2014 at 18:47
  • If you like it, go ahead and edit it into your answer. Comments routinely disappear while answers remain, and much of their purpose is to improve answers. And no, I do not insist on being credited. Jul 28, 2014 at 19:03
  • I like your third suggestion best. I think it is appropriate to treat "Over" as a complete sentence in this context. "Do you copy? Over."
    – Lumberjack
    Jul 28, 2014 at 19:56
  • When using a statement such as "X to Y. Over." it is implied that the transmitter (X) is requesting to see if the receiver (Y) is available and listening, which is why I suggested the communication being a question as in this regard I'd basically be asking if someone was there to begin my message. For the sake of the reader, I like "Vickery to Crann. Over." the best, as it seems to best represent what the radio operators would be saying as the periods make it clear and concise, which is what radio traffic should be. Thank you for your examples!
    – SQLSavant
    Jul 29, 2014 at 0:45

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