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Transcription Conventions

(Based on the Conventions from the Library of Congress’ By the People Transcription Project)

More of a Visual Learner?

Check Your Work Against Our Examples!

Save Your Work

Save your transcription frequently using the “Save” button at the top right of your screen. If you accidentally click “Done” and find you cannot return to what you were working on, it is best to simply move on. A reviewer will have access to the transcription and finish the page during review.

Text Order:

Transcribe text in the order it appears on the page. If you’re unsure of order, transcribe the text in the way that it would make sense to read aloud.

Spelling and Grammar:

Preserve original text spelling, punctuation, grammar, word order, and any numbers. Do not paraphrase the original text, just type what you see.

Categorization of Cards:

The organization of content in the “By Town” series is variable. That is, it’s not as consistent as the “By Name” series. Generally, it comes in two flavors:

1. Basic

The basic cards closely resemble the cards in the “By Name” series in terms of organization. As such, you can transcribe them with the grid structure often used there. Scroll to “Making Grids” for further instruction. Click Here for examples!

2. Complex

The complex cards contain some information that would not fit as neatly in a gridded structure. They need a separate set of rules. Click Here for an example!

Items in Parentheses:

Add a space between the grid row and the parenthetical row. Do not place the parenthetical information in a grid.

Making Grids:

To increase readability, much of the index card information will be transcribed in grid form. Here’s how to create a grid:

Ditto Marks & Spaces:

If ditto marks are present, write out the repeated information in full in brackets next to it (ex. | " [Westfield] | ).

If there is a blank space proceeding a first name on a card and there are no ditto marks indicating the last name is the same as the first, write the same last name in brackets with a question mark (SEE EXAMPLE)

Again, do not reproduce the number of line spaces faithfully. Just one space in between each line will do if it is necessary.

SOMETHING TO REMEMBER: Brackets represent assumptions!


When text has been inserted over a line or otherwise added later, but should be read as part of a sentence, bring it down into the original text and type it in the order you would read it aloud. Do not use caret symbols or brackets to indicate that the text has been inserted.


When text has been crossed out type <s>text</s> around the crossed out words to indicate the erasure.

Other Marks:

Do not include marks like arrows or curly brackets. Attempts to recreate them will make the transcription difficult to save.

Illegible Text:

If there is a word or a string of words you cannot read, transcribe as a pair of square brackets around a question mark [?]. (Eg. Jane [?] near Castleton.)

Finishing Up:

Again, don’t forget to save your work as you transcribe, but especially when you’re almost finished. Once the page is fully transcribed to the best of your ability, click “Done” to submit it for review. If you wish, you can start a new page, or log out of your account.