A Quick Guide to American English

Spell words in American English style. Many of these words will be intuitive to those familiar with American texts, and some word processors will even flag certain words as spelled incorrectly that have "extra" or "incorrect" letters in them, like favourite (favorite), analyse (analyze), travelled (traveled), and encyclopaedia (encyclopedia).

Other alternate spellings are less obvious and trickier because they might have slipped into your American writing without you noticing, like judgement (judgment), grey (gray), towards (toward), and dialogue (dialog). This is because many words have actually slipped into American writing and are largely accepted as additional correct spellings. Style guides dictate which words are accepted; the rule here for accepted alternate spellings is to choose whichever style you prefer while being consistent within a transcript.

Some English-language publications produced in other countries use local formatting conventions. As we welcome others around the world to be a part of this project, we ask that American conventions be upheld in transcriptions for the sake of consistency.

  • Use " " for quotes (as opposed to other styles like « » or „ ”).
  • Place punctuation within quotation marks. "This includes things like commas and semicolons," Kristi explained, "but it also applies to end marks like periods and question marks." Others asked, "Why should that be the case?" Kristi answered that there is no absolute reason why, but simply that in this project we have chosen to follow the Participatio style guide.
  • Place punctuation, like a period at the end of a sentence, outside of parentheses (when the parentheses are part of a sentence).
  • If a sentence is completely contained within parentheses, place the punctuation inside. (This is an unlikely occurrence in oral history transcriptions.)

Exceptions to American English:

One of the objectives in editing a history is to transcribe the participants' words verbatim. This means that sentences should not be transcribed in a way that fixes incorrect grammar. Similarly, participants' words should not be altered to adhere to American English spelling. For example, if a participant speaks the word "towards" when it ought to be "toward" in American English, transcribe it as it is heard ("towards").