Tricks for deciphering that careless handwriting!

L to R: Reduce, Enlarge, Invert (negative), Brightness/contrast

L to R: Reduce, Enlarge, Invert (switch to negative), Brightness/contrast

Don’t you sometimes wish you could ask that clerk why he didn’t use better ink, or a sharper pen, or at least why he didn’t take his time? Did he not realize that we’d be trying to read his writing 100 years later!

Here are a few tricks you can try:

  • Enlarging and reducing the size. You’ll find the enlarging controls at the top left of the indexing screen, just above the image (the plus and minus buttons.) It is not always the case that bigger is better. Sometimes seeing a letter or word in context  will help.
  • Darkening the page to make very faint ink look denser. You can also change the contrast. Use the “sun” button at the top left to get sliders for brightness and contrast. It may take a few seconds for your screen to show the change.
  • Strange, but true, that sometimes switching to a negative image make fine lines stand out really well. This technique slows the computer down a little, so be patient. The button to “invert” the image, also at the top left, is black and white split diagonally.
  • Share a batch with another transcriber. Sometimes what you need is a second opinion. Go to the “File” menu at the top left and select “share batch”. You will get a number that you can e-mail to another project member, who will be able to open the same batch and be that other pair of eyes.

We’re all working with different computers and screens, and yes,—EYES. If you come upon a batch that you are finding really difficult, and you think it may be either your equipment or your eyesight that is the problem, the best route might be for you to send the batch back for someone else to do. Look for “Return batch” under the “File” menu.

No problem. There are lots of other batches to go around. Don’t feel you have to struggle!