12 Replies Latest reply on Feb 13, 2019 11:25 AM by Julianne Mangin

    abbreviations/shorthand in letters


      Do I transcribe abbreviated words as they appear, or do I write them out?


      For example, Penn'a for Pennsylvania, or Secy of War for Secretary, or closing salutations like Rspy Yours for Respectfully Yours...


      Thank you!

        • Re: abbreviations/shorthand in letters

          Great question Suzanne,


          We haven't yet offered clear guidance on this and I confess I'm always in two minds about it. I think that from a search perspective, it's best to transcribe the whole word instead of the abbreviation, but I can also see that people who are interested in linguistics might be disappointed to find that original abbreviations were not preserved. That said, I lean more towards expanding to the whole word.


          What do you think?


          Victoria, Community Manager

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            • Re: abbreviations/shorthand in letters

              Thank you for your reply, Victoria....


              I like the idea of deferring to both minds, but agreeing on how best to do it.


              For example, how about if we transcribe it exactly, "Respy Yours" and also have either a bracketed, asterisked, parenthetical or otherwise delineated "[Respectfully Yours]"? I think I might have done that one of my transcripts.


              Penna is an odd one, in that the "a" is usually a superscript, but writing it out normally works fine, I think.


              I like the linguistics aspect and think we should honor it, especially as abbreviations are a historical peek in themselves to writing conventions. But I also respect the fact that people who have not seen the shorthand before might be puzzled; not to mention the search function.


              As I see more of these letters, I am wanting to go back and correct the few that I have pending for review. As I have time I might get back to you to release those.


              I very much look forward to being involved in this project; it brings me lightness of heart.



                • Re: abbreviations/shorthand in letters

                  Hi Suzanne,


                  So glad the project brings 'lightness of heart'! Quite the compliment!


                  I think your proposed idea to have it both ways--the abbreviation and the expansion in brackets makes a lot of sense. That said, I don't want to add a new burden to the review process or encourage you to go back and make changes. Better onwards and upwards.


                  I'll try to take some time today to raise this particular point with colleagues at the Library and see if we can agree on a convention and then add it to the transcription instructions.


                  More soon,


                    • Re: abbreviations/shorthand in letters

                      I think we should preserve the abbreviations without extra stuff in brackets clogging up the transcription. If the abbreviation refers to an important word/theme (Respy wouldn't be, but Secy of War might well be), we can use the tags to add in the full word.


                      Beth -- who will of course  bow to what the transcription rule evolves into!

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                        • Re: abbreviations/shorthand in letters

                          Thanks Beth. Yes, Lauren Algee and I were discussing this earlier and thinking through the complexities once again. In brief, there's no single method for transcribing that meets the need of every user or academic discipline, and there are arguments on every side for how/why/whether to transcribe something a particular way. For now, use your best judgement but don't impose it too heavily during the review process. We'll try to come up with a clearer strategy in the new year. Thanks for taking part and for your patience as we continue to think through this challenging area of paleography and scholarly editing!



                  • Re: abbreviations/shorthand in letters

                    Because of the linguistic aspect, I try to preserve both abbreviations and the original spellings.  Are we supposed to be "translating" the documents into modern English instead?

                    • Re: abbreviations/shorthand in letters
                      Sharon McKinley Adventurer

                      Thanks for your question and the responses. As a retired cataloger, I didn't for a moment think to spell out abbreviations. This is transcription, and I transcribe what I see, although I do like the old-fashioned {i.e., ].


                      The use of tags is going to have an interesting future. We need to be able to use all sorts of characters in those tags, too! I want to be able to use LoC subject headings, which utilize parens, colons, etc. The headings on the LC site are often a great way to identify people.


                      I'm glad I've made my way to the discussion group. Makes it more fun and interesting. What a passionate group!



                      • Re: abbreviations/shorthand in letters
                        Julianne Mangin Adventurer

                        I am on the side of only transcribing what is there.  One reason is that it adds a layer of complexity and decision-making that I don't believe should be a part of a transcriber's work.


                        For example, the use of the "inst" in dates might present a problem if someone decided that "inst" stood for "institution" and transcribed it that way.  It might not make sense in context, but I think many people don't look back at their transcriptions and read them for sense.  (Which is too bad, because sometimes that's the only way I can figure out what a "mystery" word is.)