transcribing etiquette

I'm new to transcribing for history hub.  I've been searching in vain for a guide on transcription etiquette.  While transcribing for another organization I received an assignment of 10 pages.  I transcribed the content.  It was all mine to complete.   History Hub seems to be a free-for-all where anyone can add to or edit at will.  If so, that's ok with me. I'm just worried that if I start in the middle of a document that I'm stepping on someone else's toes or violating some aspect of community etiquette.

I hope that there is a guide already compiled on sharing and editing work.  If so will someone send me the link?



  • Hi, Pete!

    Your query was posted 5 months ago, and you may already have this answer, but for posterity's sake, here is the current "How to Transcribe" posted on Crowd.LOC.Gov:

    I, too, had a bit of a time trying to find these instructs.

    I'm pretty new here, and don't fully understand the vs. intersection.

       Kim (ConkieTypes)

  • A lot of things turn up that aren't really covered on that transcribe page. 

    I noticed a lot of people do NOT follow the directions that are on that page, such as removing the hyphen from words that are split by lines, which they specifically ask you to fix because their search engine doesn't know what to do with hyphens.  Quite frankly, the search engine should ignore - when it searches, and that is a coding error IMHO.

    Also I noticed that people seem to glide over accents en and em spaces. —  I found this handy little special characters guide (alt codes)  that I leave open for use.  Holding the Alt Key down and typing the numbers will result in the character you want.  I recommend using the num keypad.

    Just use your best judgement when transcribing.  I try to keep within the original formatting of the style.  For instance, the latest transcriptions, I noticed that there were extra spaces before ! and ?   Such as, "Is this an odd way to write something ?"   I decided to leave the space there, as I felt it provided a break in the text that helped guide the readers eye, and when reading, seemed to give extra emphasis to the line.  I'm not sure another person would agree with me, and they may choose to change it.  There does need to be more standard guidelines, and I think perhaps they need to run people through some sort of test transcription which would make sure they understand the set of rules that should be applied, before continuing to just transcribe and edit.  Had there not been other errors on the page, I probably would not choose to modify, the ? and ! spaces, but it really helped me keep track of where I was at.

  • as i understand it, both crowd and history hub are under the Library of Congress.

    To put it colloquially a la Jack London, Crowd is the gang of hardy volunteers doing their thing in the gold fields, digging and uncovering nuggets where they lie. History Hub's crowd forum (where we are now) is the bar where they go to talk about it afterwards, swap stories, hear the old guys give sage advice (And you really need to listen to them) and generally get reassurance.

    As far as getting assignments of designated work, not here -- the LOC puts up masses of work to do and folks just grab and do as they can.  I"m having fun exercising my cursive skills on letters to Teddy Roosevelt. Saw one today in copperplate.

    Have at it and have fun and good luck figuring out that shorthand.

  • Thanks very much for your reply Kim.  You were the first .  I thought I asked something ridiculous because, as you discovered, my question was out there for 5 months.  The link you sent me was the most comprehensive guide on transcribing I've seen.  And it did answer my main concern, i.e. that LOC is a free-for-all.

    I've given up on LOC.  I am spoiled on being given a chunk of work that only I worked on.  It allows me to really absorb the piece of history.   Instead of LOC I'm either going back to the Trustees of Reservations in Massachusetts or trying to get some transcription in local libraries or museums.

    Thanks again!


  • Thanks Heather.  Also thanks for the link for the special character keystrokes.  I'd agree that rules are there for a good reason and should be followed.  My work for the Trustees of Reservations was reviewed before being posted so I put in a lot of effort to know their rules.  When I had a question on how to handle a situation I could correspond directly with the reviewer for her opinion.

    Thanks again for taking the time to reply to my query.


  • Thanks Charles.   In past transcription work, a chunk of work was given to me and only I worked on it.   Therefore, it was a culture shock to see that someone else had already transcribed the next page.  I understand now that LOC is a free-for-all.  I may be warming to the idea that it wouldn't be so hard to work that way.

    Thanks for responding!!


  • So sorry that we missed responding to your original post, Peter!  It's been a whirlwind of a year in many ways for everyone, including those of use who manage our volunteer outreach. That said, we really hate to have left you hanging! But we're incredibly grateful for our volunteer community who jumped in with answers for you.

    We're glad we haven't driven you to give up on transcription volunteering altogether!  If you're ever willing to give By the People another go, we'd love to have you. Best wishes on all your future transcribing!!

  • Hi, Peter!

    Glad you saw my reply, but sorry to hear you became frustrated by the lack of controls over transcriptions, during the 5 month lag time.

    I've been hanging around for about 3 weeks now, and have landed at the Freedmen's Bureau on  for the past couple.  I love the challenge of translating Spencerian & Copperplate scripts used during Reconstruction, and figuring out all the abbreviations commonly used for the time. Unfortunately, I have grown a bit disillusioned by the lack of controls (better termed as transparency), to know whom else I am working on a document with.  It can feel like an "edit war," if we transcribers are unable to connect directly with other transcribers, especially when it is not easy (i.e., quick) to re-open a document for additional editing.

    I've been transcribing since 2013, for The University of Nebraska Lincoln Archives & Special Collections, which first crowdsourced with UNL Yearbooks, and have since added letters from WWI and WWII soldiers, correspondence of famous Nebraskans, Board of Regents Minutes from the formative years, etc.

    As people have discovered that transcription as a good COVID-19 activity, I have found less work there yet to be done. Or maybe, I just longed to learn more about other parts of American history!

    Regardless, the double-edge sword of having more individuals adopt transcription as a noble use of their time, there has been a slew of individuals for whom the word "detail" is bad. For others, being able to say they worked on a "5 stars out of 5 stars" in level of transcription difficulty is important, without gaining experience first.  To know when one is in over their head is important.

    You sound well experienced, having earned the ability to take sole responsibility for transcribing chunks of material, without worrying that someone will come in and undo it!

    I'm hoping the LOC (or whomever coordinates this stuff) will add some stop-gaps into the current system.

    I liken the current system to watching children at a lengthy water playstation at a Children's Museum... where they learn the importance of dams & locks; how to slow down, divert, and pool water.  If these are addressed sooner rather than later, more experienced transcribers like you, will stick around during the growing pains.  If not...

  • I'm having an etiquette moment. It feels like folks should it "submit" after transcribing, but I've encountered 100s and 100s in the TR collections where they're fully transcribed but only saved. Is this a norm that I'm misunderstanding?

  • Hi Lauren,

    By TR I assume you mean Teddy Roosevelt.  Can you give a link or two to examples?