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Transcription and Editorial Guidelines

For a complete articulation of our approach to the project, see our Statement of Editorial Approach. In general, we are going to transcribe the text as we see it on the page, and use the <choice> element to provide alternative readings of spelling or punctuation we don't deem to be standard today (we will preserve, however, spelling that affects the pronunciation of the text).  

We will build an edition that permits us to view the text in two states:

  1. A diplomatic transcription that records the document as-is. To the best of our ability, we will preserve spelling, punctuation, word spacing, use of capital/lower-case letters, abbreviations, line breaks, and any other formal aspect that we can represent in XML.
  2. A partially regularized reading text. This version is ” partially regularized” because our regularization addresses only those aspects of the texts which have no phonological transcendence (in other words, those features whose modernization does not affect the sound of the text). These include the correction of misspellings (but not dialectical usages — see below), and the standardization of word spacing and punctuation. We are not altering the grammar, syntax, morphology, or anything else that would alter the way the text might sound when read aloud. When we encounter language that reflects a particular dialect or otherwise does not reflect “standard” usage of English in the U.S., we will leave the text as-is without attempting to modernize any features (for example, we would not attempt any regularization in the following sentence: “Mr. Kilgo was de fust overseer I member; I was big enuf to tote meat an stuff fum de smokehouse to de kitchen an to tote water in an git wood fur granny to cook de dinner an fur de sucklers who nu’sed de babies, an I ca’ied dinners back to de hans”).

Follow the following guidelines as you transcribe and regularize your transcriptions:


  • Create an original transcription that reflects the original text as closely as possible.
  • Preserve the integrity of the author's intent by not changing grammar and syntax.
  • Regularize features that do not change how the text is read aloud.
  • Identify elements such as names, places, and dates.
  • Record your uncertainty on editorial choices.
  • Ask questions if you do not understand something or are unsure of a decision.


  • Omit features from the original text, such as capitalization, punctuation, and abbreviations.
  • Change the grammatical structure of the sentences written by the author.
  • Regularize texts written in dialects.
  • Hesitate to ask questions or submit your XML file for review!

Continue to the next page for specific instructions on how to encode.