• Transcribe the document as it appears in the window. What you type gets transferred to the main document record as transcription, so don't add anything like a transcriber's signature or notes (see below in Navigation for what to do about notes).
  • Only transcribe the document in the record you are working from. Some documents are part of letter books, so you may see many pages or many letters per page. You only need to transcribe the letter whose date, sender, receiver, and content matches the information on the main document page.
  • Record any marginalia or notes written on the document, including postal notations and administrative notes.
  • If the document indicates it is a draft, make sure to note this. Occasionally, you may run into both a draft and a final copy of a document. These are both important. Additionally, include notation in [brackets] of "Private" "Confidential" or "Copy" documents made by the author.
  • Save your work. You may partially transcribe a document and come back to it later if you wish.


  • Preserve the spelling of the document, even if words are misspelled.
  • Spelling can be widely variable, even among documents written by the same person.
  • If you cannot make out a word, include "undecipherable" in [brackets].


  • Preserve punctuation of the document, even if they seem wrong to you.
  • Represent typographical conventions as much as possible. Capitalization, underlining, and strikethroughs are all important pieces of documentary evidence.
  • If you can reproduce a symbol using your keyboard, do so. Otherwise make a note describing the symbol in [brackets].


  • Superscripts should be noted by using the HTML <sup>, e.g., May 19<sup>th</sup>, 1793.
  • Highlight the text and use the buttons in the toolbar at the top of the editing window to indicate strikethroughs or underlines exactly as in the original.
  • For more advanced formatting options see this list of HTML formatting codes.
  • Do not use the tab button; it causes formatting problems. To indicate a paragraph, user two hard returns to leave a line between the paragraphs in the editing window.
  • Note any illustrations or charts in [brackets], even though you cannot actually reproduce them.


  • Use the toolbar buttons in the media viewer to examine documents more closely by zooming and rotating. You may also pan around the document using your cursor.
  • If you have additional information about the document or wish to explain any of your transcription decisions, use the Notes section to record your notes.

Still confused or unsure? Leave a note for the editors in the Notes window for the document you are transcribing.