Transcription Tips

Our goal with this project is to produce basic transcriptions of our materials - we are not looking for perfection from our volunteers! When transcribing, do your best to record exactly what you see. New to transcribing? Take a look at the tips below to get started, and check out our frequently asked questions for more advanced transcription guidelines.

Transcribe exactly what you see: Do not modernize words or correct spelling and punctuation. Roman numerals and other special characters or abbreviations should be typed as written.

Copy original capitalization: Transcribe capitalization as it appears in the original document.

Follow line breaks: Keep the same line breaks and tabs as found in the original document. Use your best judgment for the order of notes in the margins.

Do not use superscripts: Transcribe superscripts as if they were on the same line as the other words around them (for example: the "th" in 19th century).

Stay true to the original formatting: Using the editor available on the site, do your best to copy the original formatting of the document (such as bolded, italicized, and underlined words).

Ignore words with strikethroughs: Only transcribe the corrected word.

Inserted words on the same line: Type inserted words on the same line as the rest of the text. Do not use the carat (^) or any other characters.

Use brackets when unsure: Note each word you cannot read with brackets and a question mark: [?]. If you can read part of the word, include those letters in the brackets (such as [tho...?] or [th...r]). If portions of the text are missing (due to damage or missing pages), note that with brackets and ellipses: [...].

Return to previous work: As you transcribe, it will become easier to read the handwriting. When you finish a document, it is beneficial to review previous work to see if you can correct anything you weren't able to read.

Research words when unsure: Some words used in the documents may no longer be commonly used. If you are reading the word correctly but do not recognize it, try looking the word up to see what it means.

Tip for beginners: The sentences should make sense. If the sentence does not make sense, it probably has not been read correctly. Keep trying. Put the document aside and return to it later or skip ahead and see if you can gain some context that will help you make the words make sense.