How to Transcribe
Tips for Transcribing
This tutorial explains any further things you need to know about transcribing and annotating on our website.
But before we begin, it is useful to observe the following tips:
- Save regularly. It is important that you save every step you go, to avoid the risk of your work being erased. For example, make sure that you save your transcription before you click right to transcribe the next page of the document or when you exit full-screen mode.
- Transcribe as precise as possible – accuracy is key. If you happen to find mistakes or gaps in the text, if the grammar or spelling is incorrect, or if you can’t read certain words, do not try to modernise or correct them. Instead, transcribe whatever you see written and retain its original form. Spelling and grammar mistakes can be noted with [SIC], but only if you find it really necessary.
- Transcribe as much as you can – every little bit helps. Don’t give up if you can’t transcribe the entire item. Write whatever you can, because your contribution, no matter how big, makes a great difference for us and the next person working on the item. If you find yourself completely stuck, it’s also a good idea to skip the item, and try your hand at the next page.
- Don’t forget the details – all information is equally important. Although details such as printed text, page numbers, addresses, dates and images (such as stamps) are easily overlooked, it is important to transcribe as much information as possible.
- Work with each other. Other transcribers are probably your best bet when you need help with a transcription, especially those who have worked on the item or story previously.
- Check your browser. Firefox and Chrome are best optimised for the website. Technical issues with transcribing and saving can happen from time to time, but these browsers tend to work more smoothly with the transcription tool than others.
- Missing tool : when you come across a word or phrase you find illegible, fill the gap in your transcription with the Missing tool.
- Highlight your suggestion of a word or phrase you are unsure of with the Unclear tool.
- Identify wherever an image, blank page, or any other notable feature appears in the document using the Comment tool. This may seem rudimentary, but it is often overlooked when transcribing. For example, if a document is double-sided, use this tool to label that your transcription is from the left side or the right side of the document. This will make it easier for others to read. Simply write down your comment, highlight the comment text, and click the comment tool.
- Don't forget to tag locations! Though the story might already be set to a central area, you can help us trail locations from individual items and pages. This can be, for example, different towns and cities mentioned in single diary pages, or individual postcards sent from other corners on the world. Simply add the locations mentioned to the item map. There is no limit to how many geotags you can assign to one item. Detailed instructions for geotagging can be found in video C ‘Add Geotags to Documents’ on the introduction to the tutorial »
Transcribing with us is simple, but we ask you to neatly format your text so that the transcription is easy to follow. The following tips should not be regarded as a set of rules, but rather more a guide to how your transcription can be more clearly written. For the sake of readers and other transcribers, try to:
- Place line breaks in your text where they appear in the original document. There's nothing worse than trying to find your place in a large paragraph of text that doesn't match up to the document you are trying to read. Below is a transcription example with the correct usage of line breaks.
For words that are cut off at the end of a line, finish writing it in the line you are transcribing (see in the below example ‘remembered’).
- Indicate wherever headings, italicised and underlined text appear in the document. Use Bold for headings, and the respective formatting tools for italicised and underlined texts.
- Indicate strikethroughs only when necessary.
Crossed-out textis common in all handwritten documents, and including it all in your transcription might make it harder to read. Include the strikethrough text in if you think it holds meaning to the story, but not, for example, if it is a basic spelling or grammar correction.
- Spelling and grammar mistakes should be left as they are. It is likely that you will come across older spellings of words and older styles of writing while transcribing your document. These can appear very frequently and should not be considered as mistakes. Our aim for transcription is to get a record of what was exactly written on the document, so we ask you to retain unusual spellings and forms in your transcription, even if you consider them incorrect by modern standards. If you, however, feel that a real error was made, and that it needs to be noted, you can write [SIC] next to the error.
- Use the Missing tool to indicate gaps in your transcription and for parts of the document you really can’t read. This is to make clear which parts of the transcription are unfinished, and where other transcribers can pick up from.
- Indicate where words are unclear using the Unclear tool. This is where you can put your guesswork to use! If you're not 100% sure about a word you've transcribed, highlight your guess with the ? tool. You can then easily come back to the word, or leave it there for someone else to have a crack at it.
- Use the Comment tool when there is something you want mention on your transcription. This can be, for example, when you want to add extra details to your transcription, or if you want to identify where a blank page, image or graphic appears in the document. Other common uses are to label address fields in a postcard, separate pages in the document, or text inserted in the margin or anywhere other than the main body of text. For example:
You can also use the Comment tool to add your own note to the transcription. The example here shows an expansion of an abbreviation – in this case to define a shortened name of a location.
Another use for the Comment tool is to note that a part of the document is in another language: