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Well, this course didn't dally around; it jumped straight into the nuts and bolts of creating a good transcription. While several of the courses I previously wrote about did touch on the basics of transcription, Modules 1 and 2 of Skills: Transcribing, Abstracting & Extracting  provides an intense introduction to the process.

Students in typing class in school. Ashwood Plantations, South Carolina. Library of Congress. in typing class in school. Ashwood Plantations, South Carolina. Library of Congress.

Yes, I have already created transcriptions, but as I stated in a prior post, the early ones were bad, in some cases, very bad. Transcriptions are an art form you need to learn and I know I am still developing those skills. Practice makes perfect though, and the more you read handwritten documents the better you get at creating transcriptions.

I particularly liked where the instructor walked us through various ways to use our word processing software, allowing our transcriptions to be more true to form. While several of these tricks I knew about there were several that I didn't. Or, at least I had never given much thought to it.

For instance, and I feel like a dolt that I didn't think of this before, you can turn off the spell/grammar checker as well as the auto-capitalization features of your software. The worst part of typing a transcription is the way it will automatically fix “bad” spelling and auto capitalize words on new lines. If you have not created a transcription you may not understand why this would be a problem but I assure you it can be.

Since transcriptions are true to the original copies and to be true to the original you must copy all words the exact way they are spelled, capitalize (or not), and preferably keep to the same line breaks as the original. Fighting your word processor is very frustrating particularly when you read back over what was typed to make sure the computer didn't fix what it thought were mistakes. Normally I love my spell checker, other times I obviously need to turn it off!

In addition I was happy to see all the suggestions and guides to adding in superscript, subscripts, and other fonts or symbols. I was familiar with most of them, but I felt it was a good reminder for those who are not particularly comfortable with computer software and what they can do. Those functions really are simple steps to make a “true to the original copy” if you know how.

Of course, I loved the practical exercises as well. Yes, you all know that I am odd at times, but I honestly love seeing original (even facsimiles of them) handwritten letters and documents. It makes the past even more real, and it doesn't matter if they are not part of my family. Seeing the documents drives home the fact that you are looking at a piece of history. History is always cool.

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