that’s one

May 18, 1942

I’m not going to write about or post every letter on this site, but I opened one today, scanned it and the envelope, and transcribed it, so I’ll say a few things about it as the project begins.

I’m more or less happy with the transcription, but am considering what to do about misspellings and illegible words. There are ways to indicate them, but I hate the intrusiveness of the bracketed sic and illegible. Some people suggest not indicating such errors and hoping that readers trust that you were copying accurately, mistakes and all, in other words that the mistakes are not the transcriber’s. I’m using the brackets, though, for now, rather than wishing I had later. If I think of a better method before long, I’ll switch to it. I’m comfortable with footnotes, but those just send the reader skipping away from the text and back, and I’d rather the intrusion kept the reader reading the letter content.

I do think Walt must have been channeling Emily Dickinson with all the dashes throughout and at the ends of sentences–but they look better, more casual in handwriting than typed. At the ends of sentences, the dash begins above the period and is quite odd looking. I guess it’s his way of adding some pacing and some complexity to what are very simple sentences and ideas; perhaps he was more of a talker than a writer, but we’ll see how the writing might change over time.Another feature of the writing, of course, is that I’m not in on all the references and I may miss how they should read.

The funniest part is where he kind of thanks Ruth for a “sermon” she had delivered him. I wonder if it was in writing. Glad to see he appreciated it because I’m pretty sure I know what it would have sounded like.

The snapshot of the first transcription, here, is just of the letter contents. In the actual document, I am using a header with the letter date followed by the postmark date in brackets, and a page number in the footer.

I don’t know if this is the earliest letter in the collection, but it was on the end and the first one I picked up. If they stayed in order for all these decades, I will be surprised.

P.S. Do you have any idea how many times I had to redo this image because I didn’t notice my spell check was auto-correcting the misspellings? Lesson learned.

2 thoughts on “that’s one

  1. This letter is great! She said she never found anyone else as good as him, saying other men only wanted someone who would cook and clean for them, and she wasn’t having it. I know what the sermons would sound like and have given them as well! :-|

    I don’t know what to say about the words that can’t be read. If they can’t be read then they can’t be transcribed, though it would be nice to figure it out for complete records. Is there any online tool that can scan writing like the captcha technology? I do like the idea of the dashes between sentences/ideas; it does give pause to recreate natural conversation. I see people doing that on Facebook using … between ideas.


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