8 Replies Latest reply on Apr 2, 2020 5:01 PM by Henry Rosenberg

    reviewing documents where illegible words remain


      Seeking advice about reviewing and finishing transcriptions where illegible words remain.


      At what point to we "give up" trying to figure out a word and mark a page as reviewed?  or - should I leave a document in the "in progress" state so long as I see undeciphered words that I can't read either - even if the rest of the transcription is complete and fine?


      I find that the longer I work with a collection the better I get at deciphering the handwriting, and the better I know the subject matter so I can figure out what the name or place must be. So I wonder if leaving these mysteries is the right way to go because eventually one of us will figure out the word?


      I'm pretty new to this site so would appreciate the advice. thank you.

        • Re: reviewing documents where illegible words remain
          LOC Manuscript Division Tracker

          Hi Marcia,


          Welcome to History Hub, and thank you for your contributions to By the People!


          All volunteers encounter illegible text, and you should use your best judgement when deciding whether to submit for review, or save for another volunteer to work on. You may come across something that's completely illegible (part of the page is missing?) or perhaps you may find a particular individual's cursive difficult to read. Here's some guidelines from the By the People Help Center:


          Illegible or unclear text:


          Illegible text is anything you can’t read because a page is damaged, text is heavily crossed out or because you can’t tell what the author has written. If there is a word or a string of words you cannot read use a pair of square brackets around a question mark [?]. Example:


          "I have [?] loved coffee ice cream"

          If you can read any letters or parts of words transcribe what you can and use question marks for the remaining letters or words. Examples:


          "I have [a?????] loved coffee ice cream"

          If you cannot read a word or phrase that’s ok. Another volunteer may be able to identify the missing letters and update your transcription. If there is a lot of text you cannot read consider saving your transcription and looking for another page that you can decipher better.


          I hope this helps!




          Reference Staff

          Manuscript Division

          Library of Congress

          • Re: reviewing documents where illegible words remain

            Hi Marcia,

            Just a thought; I've found possible answers to mystery words by looking at neighboring documents where similar sentences appeared. Sometimes I can find followup letters or letters with similar topics to other correspondents that have been helpful. Have fun!


            2 people found this helpful
            • Re: reviewing documents where illegible words remain
              Henry Rosenberg Pioneer

              Hi Marcia- Personally it makes little difference whether you leave it "in progress" or save and submit for others to review. The issue I have is when people accept documents because they can't figure out the words. If there are documents with one indecipherable word it is probably okay to accept. If there are many and you can't figure them out either, pass it by and leave it for someone else.


              On your pother point, if I see a document with many [?] that was accepted and I feel I can do better, I will ask for Manuscript Division to reopen the page. I also sometimes wonder if I am being too picky. However, my feeling is that we have one chance to put these documents online and they should be as perfect as we can make them. I have never been told not to be picky but I think they try to walk a line with casual transcribers and more serious ones so as not to turn off the casual transcribers.


              Good luck and feel free to message me directly if you have any questions.


              3 people found this helpful