Transcription Processing

Style Guide

  1. Establish paragraph breaks at all obvious change of topics - force a break at all opportunities to avoid paragraphs that exceed normal writing. Quite often subjects will talk at great length in what appears to be a single sentence - but if you listen carefully, this will be filled with transitions. Take these as opportunities to create a paragraph break. Paragraphs should be no longer than approximately 2 minutes of speaking time (for both readability as well as technical needs to keep corresponding movie files short.
    ...the village was mostly Jewish, but after we moved to Hamburg we lived in an area that was filled with people from all walks of life because they came from..
    Becomes this -
    ...the village was mostly Jewish.
    After we moved to Hamburg we lived in an area that was filled with people from all walks of life because they came from...

  2. Surround with parentheses (.....) all questionable names and unintelligible terms, unknown spelling, or anything that needs double-checking or follow-up later. Parentheses will ALL be either eliminated or corrected later. This may include material to be asked of the subject at a later date, such as names.

  3. Surround with parentheses (.....) any notes that will eventually get eliminated - such as "(I'm not sure if this segment is in the correct order.)"

  4. Eliminate parentheses as they are fixed/clarified.

  5. Don't include action notes, such as "long pause," "takes a drink," "sobs lightly." Often oral history transcripts include this, however, since we are attaching the actual audio/video segments, this is unnecessary. The EXCEPTION is where the speaker uses a non-verbal cue that the reader would not be able to distinguish such as: [gestures "yes"] [gestures "no"] — enclose such comments in brackets [ ] and not in parentheses ( ).

  6. Eliminate all irrelevant utterances ("um," "uh," "er," "hmm," etc.) when they are spoken as verbalized pauses in thought. This usually includes words like "and," "so,""but," "well," and others, depending on the person's speech patterns. Speakers often insert these words during change of topic. This often is a prompt to begin a new paragraph.

    Example in the apartment was very difficult for me especially through my eyes, and, and, um, ah, after that time we were forced to move to another town...
    Becomes this - in the apartment with was very difficult for me especially, through my eyes.
    After that time we were forced to move to another town...

  7. Italicize obvious non-English words (eg. "Shabbat"). These will often also be put in parentheses (....) if you do not know the correct spelling.

  8. Capitalize formal names and locations - do not italicize.

  9. Spell out all numbers below 100 except dates and formal names.
    "eleven years old," "fifteen years ago," "about 200 other people," "1946," "September 1, 1939," "3rd Infantry Division," "ninety-eight died," but "102 survived." 9th Army - not ninth army or 9th army

    Military divisions/battallions, etc are numbered.
    Example "9th Army" - not "ninth army" or "9th army"

  10. Use an EM dash "—" (Shift-Option-dash) to separate what might normally be labeled with parentheses. Do not use semi-colons (;), use and EM dash instead. Speakers often stop mid-sentence to fill in details that occur to them as they speak.
    "And I still remember that various objects - torah scrolls, prayer books, prayer shawls and so on - were taken out of the synagogue and in a muddy field just right near the synagogue the vandals set fire to them.

  11. Slang words common in vocal speech should be corrected so long as the corrections do not change the meaning or flow of the spoken words.

  12. Avoid correcting what would normally be considered improper written grammar if this is part of their normal speech unless you can accomplish the edit by changing only one or two words. Rely on the accuracy of the spoken word available via the movies. When grammar is changed significantly, this begins to alter the match between written and spoken language. That said, please correct simple word tense or verb agreements.

  13. If the speaker is being consciously being poetic -- purposeful in their colloquialism (a local or regional dialect expression) -- then transcribe as you hear it.

  14. Often a speaker will stop and correct an immediate thought, making the original phrase meaningless. Go ahead and DELETE these short phrases prior to the correction. You are not changing their speech, you are simply eliminating a few words that they in essence strike from their speech.
    "Before we landed in Belgium, we were, I mean—my family may have been in Italy for all I know."
    "Before we landed in Belgium, my family may have been in Italy for all I know."

  15. When using quote marks, keep all punctuation within the quote marks.
    " Italy for all I know."
    " Italy for all I know".

  16. Spell out states and most abreviations unless the speaker speaks the abbreviation.
    "...Knoxville, Tennessee."
    "...Knoxville, TN".

  17. Include commas after all dates - Example ".... and on November 21, 2004, I went to the store..."

  18. Italicize most media titles (book titles, magazines, newspapers, movies), use "quote marks" for specific articles or sub-sets of the published whole.

  19. Capitalize the titles of armies, navies, air forces, fleets, regiments, battalions, companies, corps, etc. Unofficial but well-known names, such as Green Berets, are also capitalized. Words such as army and navy are lowercased when standing alone, when used collectively in the plural, or when not part of an official title.
    United States (or U.S.) Army; the army
    United States Coast Guard; the Coast Guard or the coast guard
    United States Marine Corps; the Marine Corps; the U.S. Marines; a marine
    United States Navy; the navy

  20. Capitalize names of historical events commonly known as distinct events or organizations.
    The Civil Right Movement; the Movement; a movement
    The Holocaust; a holocaust

  21. The first time an acronym is spoken, enclose in brackets the actual full name;
    vice-versa, the first time a full name is spoken that is later references as an acronym, enclose in bracket the acronym.
    "...that's when I joined SNCC [Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee] for the first time..."
    "...the Congress on Racial Equality [CORE] was active in Mississippi...."

Please report additional suggested style points as you work with the transcript.

Final "Find and Replace" Corrections

Once proofing and editing is complete, site administrator will conduct final "find and replace" commands for the following:

  1. replace " - " (space-dash-space) with "—" (em dash = SHIFT-OPTION-DASH)
  2. replace " – " (space-en dash-space) with "—"
  3. replace " — " (space-em dash-space) with "—"
  4. selectively replace "-" (dash) with "—" when use as a re-direct of thought
  5. selectively replace "–" (en dash) with "—" when use as a re-direct of thought
  6. replace ". with ." (enclose periods within quotes marks)
  7. replace ", with ," (enclose commas within quotes marks)
  8. find and replace full-name references to others mentioned from within the archives
    find "Bob Moses" and replace within source code "<a href="../../../mccomb/bmoses/index.html" target="_new" class="link">Bob Moses</a>"