Transcription Recommendation

Is there a recommended notation for transcription? I have seen various styles of punctuation to indicate such things as uncertain characters, clarifications or suggested interpretations, inserted text, marginalia, underlined text, italics, struck-out text, and even the use of different colours by the original author. Some of these are incomplete -- in my opinion -- and some rely on special symbols that are hard to generate reliably (e.g. the Unicode symbols U+202A and U+202B for L-to-R and R-to-L embedding).

The same applies to line numbering (how often, which margin, etc). and paragraphing numbering.

I could pick any one of the schemes but I just wondered if there was a recommended style.



Submitted byEEon Tue, 09/08/2015 - 17:40

Tony, in your adopted field the standards are set forth in Mary McCampbell Bell's chapter, "Transcripts and Abstracts," which is chapter 16 of Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (Baltimore: GPC, 2001), 291–326. Historians have no similar, current, guide.

Submitted byACProctoron Tue, 09/15/2015 - 05:07

I've ordered a copy of that book but it will take a couple of weeks to reach me here. It was already on my "to buy" book but I admit that I didn't know that this was also known as "ProGen", even though I'd heard that term many times. duh... !

Just to be clear: vit's not transcription tools that I'm after. It's a plain-text notation for diplomatic transcription. A machine-readable one (e.g. using XML) is easy, but I want a humanly-readable one with some level of acceptance/recognition amongst genealogists.


Tony, to my knowledge, no such manual exists—i.e., a guide to "a plain-text notation for diplomatic transcription" that's oriented toward genealogists or historians. Undoubtedly, you are familiar with online offerings such as

  • (oriented toward linguists)
  • (a classic transcription guide for historians, with some discussions of electronic markups)

Thanks for the links. The second is especially interesting as it indicates where each piece of notation was first used.

I'm getting the feeling that this sort of transcription is not used much these days. Purely electronic means (e.g. TEI  - Text Encoding Initiaive) are more complete and more accurate, but less reliable as a form for online publishing.