Oral History Program Style Guide

This Style Guide contains our preferred styling for frequently encountered issues in our oral history transcripts and is not a comprehensive manual. We edit lightly and base changes from received transcriptions mainly on the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition.

Oral histories provide unique situations that call for flexibility, including occasional deviations from the Chicago Manual or other scholarly traditions. We aim for clarity and consistency within the overall program and within individual transcripts. We are open to changes in language and culture, and update this document regularly. When in doubt, please ask us any questions.

Updated: December 2018

Oral History Program Style Guide: Section 1: Format of Interview Transcript

  • Font: 12 point, Times New Roman.
  • One-inch margins on both sides.
  • Left justified. No indentations for speakers.
  • No curly quotes. Please turn off "smart quotes" in your word processing program.
  • Page numbers, bottom center. No number on cover page or on preface page.
  • Speakers' full names in all caps, followed by colon and two spaces
  • Use the serial comma: x, y, and z. (See also Comma section.)
  • Use brackets, not parentheses, for added material. (See Brackets and Ellipses section.)
  • For changes in tape or disc:
    • This is disc number three. (within the text)
    • [END OF TRACK full track name.] – Transcribers, please note that the tracks are named correctly. Please include the full track name, Example: [END OF TRACK AAA_almara86_532.]
    • [END OF INTERVIEW.] – At the end of an interview there will be an [END OF TRACK.] and an [END OF INTERVIEW.] in separate instances.
  • For test tracks or blank tracks:
    • [Track <insert full name of track> is blank.]
    • [Track <insert full name of track> is a test track.]

Oral History Program Style Guide: Section 2: Treatment of Text

Refer to the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., and the Merriam-Webster 11th Collegiate Dictionary, though we do not adhere strictly to them in all instances.

Descriptive Indicators

Laughter

  • [Laughs.] Period inside the bracket if outside sentence.
  • [laughs] No period inside the brackets if within sentence.
  • [They laugh.]  NOT [Laughter.]
  • No "chuckles," etc.

Agreeing and disagreeing

  • Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Period after bracket if stands alone
  • uh-huh [affirmative] No period inside the brackets if within sentence.
  • Mm-mm [negative].
  • Okay, not OK

Pauses/interruptions/breaks in thought

  • Use "—" (em dash), not "…" (see below for ellipses) and not  "--" (double dashes)
  • No spaces around em dash (…yellow—the color—not blue…)
  • To make an em dash (—): ctrl-Alt-minus key (PC) or shift-option-dash (Mac)
  • If one speaker finishes another's sentence:

SPEAKER A:  So then I—

SPEAKER B:  —ran outside?

  • Try to keep expressions of interruptions to these:
    • [Audio break.]
    • [Cross talk.]
    • [Side conversation.]
    • [Tape stops, restarts.]

Nonspoken gestures

  • Bracket in text
    • [points to painting], [claps]

 

Information

Ellipses

  • Use ellipses to indicate portions of the audio that have been deleted from the transcript.
  • Bracket ellipses
    • Type three dots, with spaces between dots: #[.#.#.]# (or end-sentence punctuation if within sentence).
    • If the sentence ends before the ellipses, period goes in normal place, then begin #[.#.#.]# (CMS 17/13.53ff)
  • No need for ellipses if the deletions are "uh" words ("you know," "I mean," "like," etc.), brief false starts, or self-corrections.
  • Identify bracketed ellipses as described below.

Brackets

  • Use brackets for information added or deleted after the interview is recorded.
    • Format: [additional information or ellipses + space + en dash + initials of narrator or interviewer]
    • No need for initials if information is added or deleted by AAA
    • Bracket without initials if small (one- or two-word) change differs from the recorded version, unless it is important to indicate speaker made the change.
  • Correction of simple tense, gender, article, etc., that would not be audibly discernable need not be bracketed.
  • No need for brackets if an "[inaudible]" is replaced with the originally spoken word(s)

 Adding information

  • Add only if essential to understanding context and not easily available to search.
  • [Inaudible.] or [inaudible], as with laughter section
  • [ph], not (ph); don't use [sp] (since it's spoken, not written).
  • States should be abbreviated if inside brackets [Cranbrook, MI].
  • New York (the city) can be [New York, NY] or [New York City]; the latter is especially useful if the discussion is clearly in the city.
  • Don't add full names of persons, places, or titles of exhibitions, works, or publications unless necessary, i.e., obscure, needed to distinguish from a similar one, wouldn't make sense, or would be unsearchable without it.
  • Book citation: only as needed for reader to search, usually just author or title or year of publication; at most: [Author. Title. City of publication: publisher, year of publication], but usually [Title, year]
  • Exhibition info: as above; at most: [Title. Museum, city, dates (or "traveled," years)]

Acronyms

  • Spell out only when necessary (if unclear in context).
    • ACC [American Craft Council]
    • NCECA [National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts

Ampersand

  • Leave ampersand in if considered the proper name:
    • Victoria and Albert Museum, the V&A (exceptions can occur).

Titles

  • Italics: Exhibition, work of art (including installation, performance), book, movie, television or radio show (series), play, opera, major musical composition, long poem published as a single work, blog title, computer game, ship (USS Enterprise), newspaper ("the" is lowercased, roman)
  • Quotes: Poem, song, lecture, single episode of television/radio show, individual blog entry or section, web page entry or section, (academic course—only if context calls for it)
  • Uppercase: No quotes or italics: art movements (generally uppercase; see list), computer program, building of architectural significance, series (related group of artworks or regularly recurring exhibition or event), poster, T-shirt title, study or cultural program, regular column (in magazine, journal, newspaper, or website), historical event, lecture series, conference, formal academic department/position/course title (lean to lowercase)
  • Lowercase: (but can be uppercase if critical to clarity of narrative or used in a formal title). teaching or administrative position; museum or academic department, committee, or course; prize (cap if proper name (Pulitzer Prize); lowercase if generic (gold medal)); see various lists below.

Award titles commonly encountered

  • Fulbright Program (various awards within)
  • Guggenheim Fellowship
  • MacArthur Fellowship
  • NEA grant (certain specific grants are capped)
  • Rhodes Scholar/Scholarship

Techniques and materials

  • Capitalize if proper noun: NuGold, Damascus steel, ColorCore.
  • Lowercase if general technique or style: hishii, kumboo, niello, netsuke.
  • Use "karat" instead of "K," unless actually spoken as "K."

 

Word Treatment

Letters used as words

  • S shape (cap, no ital, no quotes); X number of turns
  • Spelling out names/terms in narrative: use caps with dashes: Smith, S-M-I-T-H

Words used as terms

  • The so-called X (no special treatment)

The term  "X" (quotes; differs from CMS)Onomatopoeias

  • Flexible, depending on context, but often italics to set apart: Boom!
  • Not necessary for casual speech such as "blah, blah, blah"

 

Numbers

Spelling out vs. numerals

  • Spell out numbers under 10, including ordinals and street names and numbers (One Fifth Avenue).
    • Exceptions for some technical terms, such as "cone 2"
    • When a transcript contains numerous listings of dimensions, then numerals may be more practical.
    • If the speaker says, "3 or 400," then use "3[00] or 400" for clarity.
    • Use 9/11 (terrorist attacks) and 9-1-1 (emergency call).
  • Spell out numbers that begin a sentence, unless it is a year.
    • "1934 was the year I went to Spain." (or '34)
    • Hyphenate (non-year) numbers such as "Thirty-four" when beginning a sentence.
  • Don't include "th" (11th) in full dates (dates that include year).
  • Use en dash for date spans, but comma if narrator is casting around for a date: "It was around 1967, '68; I'm not sure."

Fractions and dimensions

  • Spell out the words "inches" or "feet," etc.
  • Use hyphens for exact fractions ("one-half"), but not inexact fractions ("a third")
  • Numerals for numbers using decimals, "1.5 inches" (as spoken)
  • While we would normally use "eight by 10 inches," if a transcript uses dimensions frequently, it could work better to use all numerals, even "8x10."
  • Only add dimensional units ("[inches]") if necessary for clarity, and even then, not in every instance.
  • Hyphenate fractional numbers when they are adjectives: "a four-and-a-half-year project," or used as noun (see age section), but not when an adverb: "She was four and a half years old."

Time and temperature

  • Spell out whole numbers under 10 (one o'clock) unless exact time:
    • two o'clock or 2 a.m. (as spoken), 2:15.
  • Spell out the word "degrees" for temperatures.

Percentages

  • Spell out numbers under 10, except decimals.
  • Spell out the word "percent."

Years

  • 1950s, or '50s
  • 19th century (hyphenate when an adjective: 19th-century painting).
  • early '50s, mid-'50s, late '50s, '72–74 (use en dash for year spans, unless "through" is spoken; no apostrophe needed after dash for ending year in span).
  • 1972 or ['7]3 (if they just say "three"); 2004 or ['0]5

Age

  • "in his 30s," "in his mid-30s"
  • "She was two years old," but "She acted like a two-year-old."
  • "He was 30-something."

Money

  • If spell out number (whole, under 10), spell out symbol: four dollars (but $7.50).
  • If use numerals, use symbol: $5,000, $8 million ("[$]8 million" or "eight million" if "dollars" is not spoken).

 

Punctuation and Syntax

Punctuation within and around brackets 

  • See CMS 6.98 and especially 6.103
  • If bracketed material is a simple addition of information, such as name, date, location, translation, etc., do not add a comma, semicolon, or colon with the brackets; okay to use within if needed.
    • Exs: September 7 [1935] (no commas around year) or [September 7, 1935] (no comma after the year).
    • Then it would be: "He moved to [Cranston] Rhode Island for the sea air."— Even though, if there were no brackets, it would be "He moved to Cranston, Rhode Island, for the sea air."
  • If the material is added as part of the speaker's own words, and requires punctuation to correctly form the sentence, then punctuation may be added as needed.
    • CMS ex: "[Dear Jacob,] It's been…"
    • But if we were only inserting the name "Jacob," it would be: "Dear [Jacob], it's been…" (comma outside the bracket)
    • or "… in the old days [flying by the seat of our pants –RPW]." Even though, if the final phrase were unbracketed, it would be preceded by a comma. In this instance, the insertion is treated as a parenthetical phrase.
  • A question mark, exclamation point, or close quotes precedes a closing bracket only if it belongs solely to the added material; they follow it if they belong to the hosting sentence.
    • Ex: I told him, "You come back [here]!"
  • Similarly, a period precedes the closing bracket only if the entire sentence stands alone inside brackets; otherwise it follows.
    • Exs: [It was a Thursday.] I saw Bob Brown at the end [of the day]. He was on his way to Boston.
  • If bracketed ellipses are entirely self-contained outside of the surrounding sentences, they do not require a period.
    • Ex: I said yes. [. . .] The door opened. (CMS 13.58) Note spacing: #[.#.#.]#

Commas

  • Use the serial comma: a, b, and c.
  • See specific usage sections.

Recalled or paraphrased dialogue

  • No need for quotes if internal dialogue or generalized or casually recalled.
  • Set off with comma and cap first word even if not using quotes.
  • Adaptable to individual cases.

Colon

  • Only one space after a colon
  • Capitalize after colon only when:
    • for a direct question
    • introducing more than one sentence or question
    • for speech or dialogue

Compound words or expressions

  • Generally, do not hyphenate for adverbs—never for adverbs ending in "ly."
  • Hyphenate expressions such as "day to day" only when they are used as adjectives.
  • Generally, for techniques such as "pit fire" or "salt glaze," hyphenate when used as adjectives or verbs (see preferred spellings list).

Slashes

  • Should be changed to something that makes sense if spoken (usually a hyphen) since you can't speak a slash, unless the speaker actually says "slash." Flexible for individual cases.

Plural names and plural possessives

  • "They had many Giottos"—no apostrophe
  • Prince Charles's, singular possessive ('s)
  • The James' children, plural possessive (')

Avoiding run-on sentences

  • Two complete sentences separated by a conjunction require a comma.
  • Short compound sentences with closely related meanings, especially if simultaneous or sequential actions, can go without a comma, unless a comma would aid in understanding the sense.
  • When there is one subject with two verbs ("She raised animals and drove a tractor"), which wouldn't require a comma, if there are multiple objects that need to be separated for clarity, go ahead and add a comma: "She raised cats, dogs, and hamsters, and drove a tractor."

Appositives and interjections

  • Interjections should be contained within commas.
    • Oh, my God,
    • It is spoken, rather than written, prose.
    • "He is, like, a very relaxed person." (Though we may omit some "like"s if overused.)
      • When "like" is used to estimate an amount, it does not need commas: "There were like 50 people there."
  • The year of a given full date should be enclosed in commas.
  • A state listed after the town should be enclosed in commas.
  • "et cetera" is no longer considered an appositive and need not be contained in commas. It should be treated as any other list item.
    • Spell out (don't use abbreviation).
  • "Jr." or "Sr." after a name no longer requires enclosing commas.
  • "So" at the beginning of a sentence is usually being used conversationally as a simple conjunction and does not require a comma. If used as an interjection or parenthetical (usually to change the subject), then use a comma.

Restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses

  • Restrictive (dependent) introductory clauses (containing subject and verb) should be set off by commas.
  • Dependent clauses at the end of sentences present special consideration—determine if the clause is restrictive individually. (See CMS 17/6.25.)

Special constructions

  • It was, what, 1997?
  • It was—what—1997?
  • The, quote, unquote, celebration (no quote marks)
  • Comma after question mark or exclamation point only when following a title or quote containing a question mark/exclamation point, or if absolutely grammatically necessary, but not with dialogue ("Are you here?" she asked) (CMS 17/6.124–26)
  • dark-type (slang, not a word)
  • academic-wise (slang, not a word)
  • The thing is, I never went there. (Comma stands in for "that")

Foreign words and phrases

  • If in Merriam-Webster 11th, treat as any other word.
  • If not, italicize.
  • Flexible for individual cases.

 

Art Periods and Movements

In general, capitalize specific art movements; lowercase if the word is being used descriptively rather than referring to the specific historical period or movement.

  • Abstract Expressionism
  • Art Deco
  • Baroque
  • Beaux Arts
  • Color Field
  • Conceptual art
  • Constructivists
  • Cubism
  • Early American
  • Minimalism
  • Modernism
  • Neo-Geo
  • Old Masters
  • Op art
  • Photorealism
  • Pop art
  • Postmodernism
  • Renaissance
  • Surrealism

 

but,

  • abstract
  • contemporary
  • medieval
  • modern
  • realism

etc.

Oral History Program Style Guide: Section 3: Preferred Spellings for Frequently Encountered Words and Terms

Numbers

8 mm (film type)

16 mm (film type)

3-D, three-dimensional

Jump to: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X  

A

a while (2 words: obj. of preposition); awhile (1 wd: adverb)

ACT UP - no need to spell out, but should be in all caps

aesthetic

African American (no hyphen unless adjective)

aha

antebellum

archaeology

the Archive Project (Visual AIDS)

Area (club)

Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard

Art AIDS America (exhibition)

art-making

artwork

Ashanti

avant-garde

B

back and forth (adv); back-and-forth (n, adj)

backtrack (1 word)

baisse taille

Ballroom scene

balsa wood

band saw (2 words.)

basket maker

Bay Area

bentwood

bicentennial

Black C.A.R.E. (Black Community AIDS Research and Education)

blow job (two words)

blowpipe

body monitors

boxwood

Boy Scouts; scouting, scout leader; Boy Scout leader

brand-new

brush plate

buttonhole (1 word)

C

cabinetmaker (1 word)

camel hair (or camel's hair)

candleholder

candlestick

catalogue

Catch One (club, LA)

chain saw

champleve (1 word)

chest of drawers

china paint

chinoiserie (lowercase)

chokin

Christie's

civil rights movement (lowercase)

Club Fuck!

coal miner (2 words.)

ColorCore

copy editor / copyedit

counterculture

craftsman

crosshatch (v, n)

cross-hatching (n)

cuff links (2 words.)

custom-made

cut out (v, 2 words)

cutout (n, adj)

D

da Vinci

Dahoumey

damascene

Damascus steel

dango

de Kooning

decision making (n, 2 words)

Depression

die-in

dinnerware

disc (for recording)

"documenta" when referring to the series of exhibitions; "documenta 7" or whatever number when referring to a specific exhibition.

drywall

Dyke Action Machine! (DAM!)

E

Early American

earthwork

East Coast (but going east, eastern)

Ecstasy (capitalized; recreational drug)

electro + process (1 wd., electroplate, etc.)

email

eye-opener

F

Fahrenheit

faience

fall-front (desk)

feminist movement

fiberglass

fierce pussy (all lowercase)

Fiesta (ware)

fine-tune

firebox

fire-glazed

firsthand

flatware

flossa

fly-shuttle loom

free-form

freelance

freestanding (1 word)

fresco, -oes

Fulbright Program (various awards within)

full time (n)(rarely encountered), usually full-time (adj/adv)

fund-raising

furniture maker

G

gay-bashing

gemstone

GI Bill (no periods)

glassblower

glassmaker

GMAD (Gay Men of African Descent)

GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis)

God, goddam (n,v), goddamed (adj, adv)

gold leaf (n, 2 words.)

gold medal (lowercase)

Gran Fury (artist collective)

gray (not grey)

GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency)

Guggenheim Fellowship

Gump's

H

hairpin (1 word)

hand-blown

hand-building, hand-built

handcrafted (1 word)

hand-forging

handmade

hand-make

hand-quilted

handsaw

hands-on

hand-spun

handweaver, handwoven

hardwood (1 word)

high chair (2 words)

high tech

high-rise

HIV government assistance programs (spell out in brackets)

HIV-positive

hollowware

honan

HOWL! Festival

I

iCI (Independent Curators International, NY)

ikat

ikebana

Imari

internet (lowercase)

ironwork, glasswork, etc.

J

jacquard (fabric)

Jacquard loom (named after inventor)

jewelry maker (2 words.)

jigsaw (1 word)

K

Kaposi sarcoma, Kaposi sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV)

karat

kente

kilnload

L

LA (not L.A.) (with exceptions)

La MaMa

LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions)

lace making (2 words.)

Le Palace (club, Paris)

lengthwise

Lesbian Herstory Archives

LGBT Center (cap C, NYC)

life-size(d)

lifetime

linocut

long-range

long-standing

long-term

longtime

lost wax, lost-wax process

low-fire

low-tech

Lucite

lumberyard (1 word)

M

MacArthur Fellowship

makara

mange

man-made

mass-produced, mass production

mat (n,v) (around a picture)

matte (nonglossy finish)

medium (mediums is plural for materials; media is "mode of expression")

metalsmith, metalworker

MicroGeneSys

mid-'70s

Midwest, but midwestern

mingei

Mission District

MOCA

mock-up

model making (2 words.)

mokume gane

MoMA

MSM (Men having Sex with Men or Men Seeking Men) (also WSW)

Mylar

N

NEA grant, fellowship (unless titled)

niello

nunome-zogan (per MFA, Boston)

O

October (journal)

off and on (adv; hyphenate if adj; ditto one of a kind, one on one, etc.)

okay (not OK or ok)

open-minded

Oribe

Oriental

P

palate (taste)

palette (colors)

Palladium (club)

pallet (bed)

paper cord

papermaking (1 word)

part-time (adj)

Ph.D., B.A.

photo + technique =1 word., photogravure, (but photo etch)

Plexiglas

plique-à-jour (accent grave over "a")

postwar

pottery-making

Prescription drug names (especially if obscure) add "[prescription drug]"

Printmaking

PS1

Pyramid Club

Q

quilt maker, quilt making (2 words)

R

raku

ready-made

redwood

resume (no accents necessary)

Rhodes Scholar/Scholarship

rokusho

rolltop (1 word)

rosewood

round-over (except as verb, then two words, no hyphen)

rya

S

S/M, S and M if "and" is spoken (S-and-M if adjective)

salt glazing (n), salt-glazed (adj), salt-glaze (v)

sandblast(ing)

sapwood

sawmill

Scotch tape

S-curve

semiprecious

setup (n, 1 word)

shakudo

short-lived

short-term (unless n)

silk screen (n, 2 words.)

silk-screen (v & adj)

silkworm

sketchbook

slip-casting

SOFA (Sculptural Objects & Functional Art)

SOHO (with exceptions)

Sotheby's (Parke-Bernet Galleries, '37-64; Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co, '64-70)

South, but southern

spell-check

Sperone Westwater

still life (2 words.; hyphenate for adj.)

still lifes

stoneware

strip piecing

Styrofoam

Super 8 (film type)

T

tabletop (1 word)

TAG (Treatment Action Group)

takaniku zogan

tape recorder (n, 2 words)

tape recording (n, 2 words)

tape-record (v)

T-cells

terra-cotta

The Kitchen (performance space)

The Marys

theater, not theatre

tie-dye

time frame (2 words)

time-consuming

time-out

tinfoil

tintype (1 word)

toolmaker, toolmaking (1 word)

Treatment and Data committee (precursor to TAG)

T-shirt

tulip tree

tulipwood

tussah

TV

U

ukiyo-e

underpainting

university-educated (adj)

university-trained (adj)

USA, DC, LA, Washington, D.C., U.S., U.K., the States

V

van Gogh

Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)

Voulkos's (for possessive)

W

WAC (Women's Action Coalition)

watercolor (1 word)

website, web, but World Wide Web

well known (adv)

well-known (adj)

West Coast (but west, western)

WHAM (Women's Health Action and Mobilization)

wheat paste (n, two words); wheat-paste (adj or verb)

wheel-thrown, wheel throwing

widespread

wide-spreading

women's movement

wood carving

wood turning (2 words., per Renwick)

woodblock (1 word)

wood-carver

woodcraft

woodcut

woodworking, woodwork, woodshop

workshop

wrought iron

X

xerox (lowercase), but Xerox machine

X-ray (n)

x-ray (v)