Transcription Guidelines

  •  You should transcribe exactly what you see-do not modernize words or correct spelling and punctuation.  We encourage all volunteers to use the Scripto interface in Omeka (detailed instructions are available) for completing transcriptions. Alternately, a simple text editor like Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac) could also be used.
  • For an example of a transcription of a complex document, visit the previously completed Bucktrout ledger.
  • Note: you will be making the “original” transcription, and Special Collections staff and volunteers will later edit some punctuation and possibly add paragraphs to make the “modernized” transcription.
  • Do transcribe superscripts (for example: the “th” in (19th century), but transcribe as if they were on the same line as the other words around them. You may also see words that have strikethroughs; this occurs when the writer made a mistake and corrected it or simply decided to omit something from their text. For these, transcribe only the corrected word and ignore the word that is struck through.
  • Note each word you cannot read with brackets and a question mark: [?]. If you think you may know the correct word, but are not certain, place the word(s) in brackets with a question mark. If portions of the text are missing (due to damage or missing pages) you should note that with brackets and ellipses: [...].
  • Keep the same line breaks and tabs as found in the original document. This will facilitate Special Collections staff checking your work.
  • There is an exception to the punctuation rule. It is okay to add periods at the end of a complete thought if you think the writer intended to end a sentence at that point. Sometimes writers used a dash at the end of a sentence or omitted the period altogether even though they “knew” the grammar rules. In these instances, you may insert a period instead.
  • 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.
  • Direct all questions as you are transcribing to Susan Riggs (sarigg@wm.edu or 757-221-3095) and if you're not already transcribing documents, contact us to get started!