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ADAH Transcription Guidelines

Type what you see.

Retain the original spelling, punctuation, and capitalization used by the writer. Do not denote misspellings or grammatical errors with the [sic] notation, just type the document as it has been written.

Retain original line and page breaks.

Retain paragraph indentions, line breaks, and page breaks as they appear in the original text. One exception: If a word is hyphenated or appears on two separate lines, transcribe it as one word at the beginning of the second line.

Noting edits within a text:

  • Strikethroughs
    If a word has been crossed out and is still legible, use the strikethrough function to cross through the words that have been edited in the original. If a word has been crossed out and is illegible, note in brackets like this: [illegible strikethrough].
  • Insertions (interlineations)
    If words are inserted above or below the main line of text, transcribe the word as it would naturally appear in the text without additional notations.
  • Underlined passages
    Underline words or phrases when they appear underlined in the original text.
  • Illegible words and phrases
    If a word or phrase is completely illegible, note the how many words or lines are illegible in brackets like this: [3 words illegible]. If a word or name is partially legible or if you have a question about the accuracy of your transcription, transcribe the word to the best of your ability and insert a question mark in brackets after the word. If a word is incomplete or only partially legible, note using brackets and two hyphens: [?], [Sm--]. When a letter is torn or cut, note where the legible line of text ends and the tear begins. (For example: [strong] I am in tolerable health at this [end of line, page is cut].)
  • Non-textual elements (sketches, postmarks, etc.)
    If you would like to provide a description of postmarks, sketches, or other non-textual elements that appear in the original text, make a note in brackets roughly where the item appears within the text. Some documents might feature illustrations or marginalia that interrupts the main text. In this case, make a note at the end of the transcribed text describing the sketch and approximately where it appears on the page.
  • Postscripts and marginalia
    Occasionally letters and other documents contain marginal notations or postscripts which do not appear in order in the main body of the text. For example, a postscript may be written in the top or side margins of a letter, rather than at the end of a letter. When a postscript appears "out of order" in the body of the letter, transcribe the text where it would traditionally appear (at the bottom of the letter) and make a bracketed notation of where the text actually appears in the letter. Occasionally, documents contain marginal notations that appear beside the main text. It is difficult, and often impossible, to integrate these notes into the main text. Instead of attempting to insert marginal notes into the body of the text, transcribe them at the bottom of the page, along with a bracketed note that describes where the note appeared in the original text. You can also note if the marginal notes are written in a different color ink, or are otherwise distinguished from the main text in some way.
  • Cross-hatched letters
    During the 19th century, writers frequently wrote letters using the “cross-hatching” technique in order to save paper. After the author filled a page with text, they would turn the paper sideways and continue writing, creating two layers of text, one that ran vertically across the paper and one that ran horizontally across the same page. When transcribing cross-hatched letters, transcribe the first portion of text on the page normally, then rotate the letter and note the beginning of the cross-hatched text in brackets like this: [Page 1, cross-hatched text].