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 move to the next item 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.

Special Tools

  • Missing tool missing: 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 »


Other than transcribing text and tagging locations, you are also encouraged to add annotations (‘enrichments’) to individual documents. By tagging dates, describing the images, and adding additional details and sources, you help enrich our knowledge of the document and add to its accessibility.

You can find the following enrichment fields below the map and transcription panel within each item view.

Description Field

You can find this text box directly below the transcription panel. It is activated once you click the pen icon . Here, you can write an overall description of what the item is and describe in detail images and objects that might appear in the item (e.g. description of the image on a postal stamp, or individual images in a photo album). Try to be as detailed as possible and write your description in the format item description: detailed observations, for example: 'Photo postcard: busy street scene, Friedrichstraße, Berlin’. Please also separate multiple descriptions with either a comma (,) or a semicolon (;).

When there is no text to transcribe on an item, do not leave the transcription panel blank! Please write the item description in both transcription and description field. For example, Transcription: 'Photo postcard', Description: 'Photo postcard: busy street scene, Friedrichstraße, Berlin'.


Set the language that the item is written in. If several languages are used, please include them all.

Document Dates

Add dates (start and/or end) to the individual item if they appear in the document. Leave details blank if they are not specified (e.g. specific days and months).

Document Category

State if the item is a part of a diary, letter or picture by clicking yes under the relevant categories. Please note that the categories are general and can encompass a variety of things, e.g. postcards fall into the ‘Letter’ category, and things like autograph books, poetry books and photo albums should be considered as ‘Diaries’.


Include keywords that describe the item’s purpose or key themes that are mentioned in the text.


You can include which War Front the source is written from, e.g. ‘Home front’ or ‘Eastern Front’.

Other Sources

This feature is useful to include more detailed information from other websites that can help enrich knowledge of the document and/or something mentioned in the document. For example, a link to further details of a battle, event or place mentioned in the text, or links to digital versions of newspapers that appear in photos or clippings in a notebook. Click ‘Add a link’ and fill in the prompted information.

Formatting Guidelines

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:

  1. 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’).

By the way I had a letter from
B.Booth he wishes to be remembered
to all at “Wilton Lodge.
I wrote to George + dear Mother
today so I hope she gets
it alright. I am living
in hopes of seeing you
all in the pink soon
We will be here for ten
days or more. Best
love to my dear Father + Mother


  1. 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.
  1. Indicate strikethroughs only when necessary. Crossed-out text is 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.
  1. 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.
  1. When there is no text to transcribe in an item, do not leave the transcription panel blank! Please write the item description in both transcription and description field. For example, Transcription: 'Photo postcard', Description: 'Photo postcard: busy street scene, Friedrichstraße, Berlin'.
  1. Use the Missing tool missing 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.
  1. 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 Unclear tool.. You can then easily come back to the word, or leave it there for someone else to have a crack at it.
  1. 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:

in margin 1917
tutti i giorni inuguale sempre
morti e feriti 16 si sente parlare
di pace non si pensa che a questo
si dice dobbiamo andare in riposo
17 gnori tutte le sere ci attaccano
sono sempre respinti 18 tutti i
giorni sono uguali 25 Natale
senza mangiare un po’ di
baccalà in umido pane e
lardo 26 si parla sempre di avversare
e mai di riposo 30 abbiamo
fatto i spachetti dopo tanto
tempo to mangiato 31 questa sera si dice
si portano in riposo. partiamo

Address Field
Velectěný Pan
p. F. Tuháček Praha - Žižkov
Karlová tř. 20
V Sebeniku 20/2
Drazí rodiče Zítra sem přijede
tak se zde všechno

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:

*Please note that the purpose of the Comment Tool is to identify basic details of the document where they appear in the text. Use the Description field below the transcription box (see Enrichments) to describe overall and more detailed observations of the document or any images that may appear.