Transcription Instructions and Tips


Transcribe what you see; don’t get too hung up on formatting

  • Preserve line breaks by hitting “return/enter” twice. When in doubt, add a blank line!
  • Use [ALL CAPS IN BRACKETS] to indicate supplied information.


  • Type the abbreviation as it is in the document; then if you are able, spell out the abbreviation in all capital letters in single square brackets immediately after the abbreviation.
  • Do not spell out directions (NNW).

Example: Latt obsd [LATITUDE OBSERVED] 38:50 north steered ESE.


  • Modernize capitalization for readability (e.g., proper nouns, first word of a sentence).
  • Capitalize directions when abbreviated (NNW) or when they are part of a proper noun.
  • Do not capitalize directions when they indicate direction or location (southward, east steered).


  • If you come across a long s, type it as an s, not an f.
  • Don’t worry about denoting superscript characters such as 2nd, McDonald, or “Yr”.

Illegible text:

  • If totally unintelligible, type [???] where the word would be in the text.
  • If you are able to make a guess, use all capital letters in singe square brackets with a question mark at the end of it.

Example: 2 P.M. hauled the ship for [THE?] stream & anchored.


  • Add periods where appropriate if none are used, but do not add any other punctuation.
  • If something is hyphenated because it runs onto a second line, type it as one whole word.
  • Preserve the use of symbols/special characters such as & and +.


  • Preserve original spelling.
  • If you are able to do so, provide the correct/modern/standardized spelling (particularly for things of research value, such as names of people, places, relevant terminology, etc.) in all capital letters surrounded by single square brackets right after the original spelling in the text.

Example: …let one reef out the mizen [MIZZEN] top sail…


Every little bit helps! You don’t have to complete an entire transcription; adding a sentence or two or filling in some blanks make it easier for future transcribers!

Don’t get too hung up on replicating formatting. The point of this transcription is to provide a searchable, accompanying text. The main focus is transcribing information in a clear, consistent, and accessible way without losing meaning, context, or research value.

The basic guidelines for our transcription project are

  • transcribe what you see, don’t get too hung up on formatting,
  • use line breaks, and
  • use [ALL CAPS IN BRACKETS] to indicate supplied information.

    Our bniars do not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but rhtear the wrod as a wlohe.

If you find yourself stuck, try the following:

    • Consider context and try reading “around” difficult words or passages — think about what a likely word would be.
    • Read the word letter by letter.
    • Compare individual letters to those elsewhere in the document.
    • Approach the word from a different perspective by zooming in or out on the document.
    • Skip it! Come back to it at a later time with fresh eyes and maybe a better handle on the handwriting.
‘Compass’ with a long S

The long s (ſ) is an archaic form of the lower case letter s. It replaced a single s, or the first in a double s, at the beginning or in the middle of a word (e.g. “ſinfulneſs” for “sinfulness” and “ſucceſs” for “success”) and often looks like a lowercase f. Please type “long s” as “s”, and not “f”.

For further information, explore New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Introduction to Whaling Logbooks and Journals, learn more here.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

We use cookies to deliver our online services. Details and instructions on how to disable those cookies are set out in our Privacy Policy. By clicking I Accept, you consent to our use of cookies unless you have disabled them.

> >