Sample Transcription Guidelines

Style and Transcribing
Each Scripto project requires guidelines or a style manual specific to the kinds of materials in the database. Your style manual takes into account the historic era of the materials, language and speech mannerisms, quality of the raw materials, whether wiki markup is needed to reproduce original formatting, and the desired outcome of the project. For example, should transcriptions maintains spelling and speech exactly as represented in the materials or is the focus on content and substance alone, regardless of stylistic idiosyncrasies? How will written transcriptions represent non-standard speech patterns or accents?

The following samples are presented as broad guidelines, as suggestions guiding your development of project-relevant style manuals. If the kinds of materials you are working with are varied, you may want to consider separate directions for text, audio, and multimedia items.

Transcription Guidelines

  • Use the zoom buttons to examine documents more closely. You may also pan around the document.
  • Make sure you preserve any dates contained in the material!
  • Preserve the spelling of the document, even if words are misspelled. Note that spelling can be widely variable, even among documents written by the same person! Preserve spoken or sung colloquialisms and grammar variations in audio and video works.
  • Suppose you cannot read or understand a word or a phrase? The place the term “undecipherable” in [brackets].
  • Preserve punctuation as it is in the document, even if it’s incorrect!
  • Represent typographical conventions as much as possible. Capitalization, underlining, and strikethroughs are all important pieces of documentary evidence. See the MediaWiki formatting manual for more information.
  • If you can reproduce a symbol using your keyboard, do so. Otherwise make a note describing the symbol in [brackets].
  • To indicate a paragraph, user two hard returns to leave a line between the paragraphs in the editing window.
  • Record any marginalia or notes written on the document, including postal notations and administrative notes. With audio and video transcription, be sure to note who is speaking and changes among speakers.
  • If you have additional information about the document or wish to explain any of your transcription decisions, use the discussion option in Scripto to record your notes.

Scripto is a free, open source tool for enabling community transcriptions of document and multimedia files.