Documentary Editing, Association for


Date of this Version


Document Type



Documentary Editing, Volume 23, Number 3, September 2001.

ISSN 2476-1796 (electronic); ISSN 2167-1451 (print)


2001 © the Association for Documentary Editing. Used by permission.


Historical editors rarely cite theory to justify particular editorial practices. Instead, they usually make appeals to common sense and personal experience. Of course, "eyeballing it" is legitimate, but documentary editors should inform themselves about linguistic and literary theory to create better-informed policies for transcription and translation. Increasing theoretical sophistication will lead editors to pay more attention to reproducing an author's style. (The hyphenation of re-producing is meant to remind the reader that transcription and translation are creative acts [thus, produce] but that this creativity is constrained by the goal of fidelity to the source text [thus, re-].)

This article will introduce three theoretical concepts from linguistic anthropology as examples of the riches available to editors. I do not claim that these three particular concepts are especially key or that the policies that I recommend should be applied universally. Rather, the main point is that theoretical concepts such as these can help us to clarify the implications of our decisions in a way that common-sense reasoning does not. As a concrete example, I argue that paying attention to theory makes any effort to detach style from content meaningless. While this argument applies to any sort of editing, including transcription, the discussion mostly addresses translation in scholarly editions.