General Transcription Guidelines

General Transcription Guide and Guidelines for Student Transcriptions

The following are the basic rules used by students performing transcriptions


Sources should be transcribed as literally as possible. Unless the original transcription is literal, it will be difficult to provide a clear record of any changes made later by editors.


Use Microsoft Word

Turn off spell check, grammar check, auto-correct, auto capitalization [basically turn off anything that will try to “correct” what you type in]

Use Courier, 11 size font

Save the file with the same name as the .jpg (only this will be a .doc)

At the top of your first page for a transcription put “Doc. BCHR— [—being whatever the number is]; center and bold this and then double space afterwards before beginning your transcription]


Doc. BCHR146a


Make sure document is NOT right-justified

Make transcription “look” like the original as much as possible

  • Use original end of line breaks

o   If the line on the original document does more than one line in your word document, only hit “enter” at the end of each document line. In other words, at the end of each document line hit “enter” once.

  • Use original page breaks. When you have a document set that is more than one page, put transcription and data into one .doc file and use following to indicate page breaks:

o   [[End Page]]

o   [[Start Page]]

o   If one of your documents is the “envelope” place that first in your transcription.

  • Keep capitalization and punctuation as it is in original
  • Keep word breaks as in original [ie., at end of lines]
  • Just 1 space in between “headers”
  • Extra space between paragraph

o   When there is a paragraph break on the original document hit “enter” twice

  • Extra space before signature
  • Margins 1 inch all around
  • Line-paragraph spacing = 1 space, 0 before, 0 after


  • Put in { } things that you “guessed” at – words, names, whatever, that are difficult to transcribe. Also, put in comment balloons with explanations
  • Use ( ) for any text inserts in the original document
  • If the words in the original are in all CAPS then use that in the transcript.
  • If the words in the original are in italics then use italics in the transcript.
  • For documents that have both typeset and handwriting, put the handwritten sections in bold.
  • When a document has a signature put [signature] after the person’s name

o   Th. Jefferson [signature]

  • Use            –Illegible–      for words or pieces of words that you simply cannot figure out or are smudged, etc.
  • Use            –missing–       for missing words, document damaged, etc.

o   Virg{inia} as an example where you have the Virg clearly and then the inia is missing because the page is torn

  • Space filler (looks like squiggles) is transcribed as ____ (4 underscore marks in place of squiggle)
  • At the end of your transcription, before the Data section, place ————— (15 hyphens) and then a double space (two “enters”)



For the descriptors (DATA) at end of document:

  • Times New Roman, 12 point font
  • Heading in small caps — Bolded
  • Tab in to line up
  • Order = Date; Subject; Author; Keywords; Summary
  • After your summary hit “enter” twice to create space before research notes.




For research notes:

  • You should have a “research note” for the names mentioned in the documents for whom you assess information for, for any unknown words or phrases (words that are unknown to “us” today), for any abbreviations in the documents that people may not understands, and for anything else that you think might someone reading the document and transcription would need to know about.
  • Use endnotes not footnotes.
  • Make sure the numbers for the research notes are Arabic not Roman numerals.
  • Indent the first line of each research note by one “tab”.
  • At the end of each endnote hit “enter” once so there is a space between each endnote.
  • Use Times New Roman, 10 pt. font
  • For the “significant” names/people in your document (in other words, ones you can find inforamtion for) include:

o   Name of person

o   Lifespan (1783-1803)

  • if you can only find birth or death dates use b. d. (b. 1773) or (d. 1804)

o   Spouce if known and date of marriage if known

o   Positions they held, and the dates of those positions if known

o   Other significant aspects of their lives

o   Reference Information

o   Here are some examples so you can see the order and format to use[1]  [2]  [3] [4]:




[1]Edward Brugh (1829-1895 m. Nancy): Sergeant and later First Lieutenant in the 2nd Regiment, Virginia Calvary, Company C.


[2]James Preston (1774-1843 m. Ann): 20th Governor of Virginia, 1816-1819.


[3]Thomas Lewis (1718-1790 m. Jane 1749): Delegate representing Botetourt County in the General Assembly of Virginia, 1782. Robert Douthat Stoner, A Seed-Bed of the Republic, 1962, 439.


[4]William Ward (1725-1795 m. Elizabeth 1745): Sergeant in Captain Dickinson’s company of Ranger in 1756 and 1757; Lieutenant Colonel in the militia in 1782.



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