Advanced and Project Specific Instructions for Transcription and Review

Marginalia and Footnotes

Some documents contain footnotes, and/or additional notes, written beside, below, or above the linear text.

There are a few different options for transcribing these extra tidbits:

Option A: Margin notes can be transcribed after or before other linear text is transcribed (at the end or beginning of the main transcription text) & tagged in a way that indicates they’re additional notes/marginalia ex: [[left margin]] or [[margin note]] or [[note]] etc. See example page.

Option B: If there are multiple margin notes, or footnotes (as is particularly common in Freedmen's Bureau Records), you can transcribe the marginalia or footnotes in the order they appear, following the ending of the letter or main entry in the original text. See this example page from the Freedmen's Bureau Records.

Remember, don't get bogged down on perfection and formatting. The main objective is to make this information searchable and readable, and to ensure that it is clear to anyone reading this transcription that a margin note is in fact, a margin note, or additional entry in the text.

Transcribing Columned Data and Tables

Some of the historical documents featured in Transcription Center projects include tables and columned data that can be challenging to transcribe.

Please remain consistent in your transcription of columned data across a project, and limit the use of brackets as much as possible. 

All transcriptions of pages containing tables should include, at the top of the transcription box, bracketed information on how many columns are included in the table.  For example: [[4 columned table]] 

Then begin transcribing the table by indicating the column headers. To start transcribing a table, type the column headers first, separating these using the pipe (|) symbol (press the shift + backslash key). Then underneath the column headers, type three or more hyphens (---) to separate the headers from the columned information, again using pipes (|) to separate each column. Add pipes on either end of the table. This format for transcribing tables follows markdown guidelines (or plain text). Transcribing tables in markdown allows for this information to be shared seamlessly from computer to computer, and system to system--maximizing the potential for these transcriptions to be adapted and used by a wide range of researchers.

For example:

[[4 Columned Table]]

| Date | Name | Age | State |

| --- | --- | --- | --- |

| Aug. 7, 1865 | John Smith | 32 | Virginia |

To demarcate between cells in table, use a vertical bar/pipe (|). Use this only to mark transitions left-to-right. No special mark is necessary for line breaks or new rows. Please include empty cells where appropriate, but do not feel the need to add empty rows. To transcribe empty cells, please simply use two vertical pipe bars (|) with three empty spaces in between.

For example: |   |  (and refer to transcribed example pages below, which contain empty cells).;

See example page here and here.

Transcribing "Ditto" Marks

Unless otherwise directed in project instructions, when you encounter the "ditto" mark on a project page ( " ), please simply type the word that the ditto mark is intended to stand for. For instance:

The brown dog ran fast.            

The gray " ran fast.        ---->                             should be transcribed as           ---->                    The gray dog ran fast. 

See example page, as well. 

If you are unsure what the " mark is intended to stand for, please transcribe [[ditto for ??]] so other volunteers and Smithsonian staff know that further review is needed. 

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Project Specific Instructions

Certain projects - including those with tables, complex formats, or specific transcription data needs from the Smithsonian holding unit - require special instructions. If the project you are working on falls into this category, a link to additional special instructions will be included in the project description. These instructions are also listed and linked below. Need further help ? Have an idea for how we can improve? Let us know. You can also send us comments through the Feedback button so we can make your experience transcribing even better.

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