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Archival Processing: Style Guide

A guide to processing archival collections

Writing Titles

► Writing good titles is extremely important - always think like a researcher - what is in the folder, volume, or document that they need to know. A date, whenever possible is a great enhancement. If it is truly undated, use “undated” as the date expression.

 This is often how researchers will decide if a collection contains information that makes research worth their time, and sometimes travel, to access it.

 Pay attention to your wording and be as accurate as possible.

Example: Meeting regarding potato farming in Hastings, Florida, 1995. Is this a meeting about potatoes farmed in Hastings, Florida, or is it a meeting about potato farming, generally, which was held in Hastings, Florida? A researcher may be interested in only one of these topics and an unclear title such as this one may be misleading, resulting in a researcher wasting time or missing useful information altogether.


Try not to use abbreviations - few are absolutely standardized and it is best to avoid possible ambiguities.

Common words and abbreviations you may not think about:
 memo = memorandum (plural: memoranda)
 info = information
 misc = miscellaneous (try to avoid this word unless the rest of your title or series is more descriptive)
 & = and (except for instances where the ampersand is part of a business name or similar, such as AT&T, Florida A&M University)
 # = number
 etc. = et cetera (try to avoid this too)

 St., Jr., and Ft. and similar in city and person names
 U.S. (United States) and D.C. (Washington, D.C.) (note the use of periods in these); Please write out state names if possible.
 Degrees: B.A., M.A., Ph.D. (note the use of periods in these)

Acronyms: Do not use acronyms without describing them fully the first time they are used.
 Use acronyms sparingly: With electronic finding aids, researchers may jump to a portion of the finding aid without reading all of the notes. If you have a series title that has an acronym, make certain that you include the full name in the series title, in addition to the acronym. Example: Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC)
 If using an acronym and pluralizing it, make it a small ‘s’ and don’t use an apostrophe. (e.g., PACs, EISs, EAs)


Date Formatting

Inclusive Dates:
► 1849-1851 (no spaces around the dash)
► NOT 1849-51

If the collection continues to accrue, place the most recent accrual in the date span:
► 1965-2009
► NOT 1965- OR 1965- (Ongoing)

Bulk Dates:
► 1895-1960, bulk 1916-1958 (When entering this data in the Excel sheet, there are separate cells for inclusive and bulk dates.)

Significant Gap in Records:
► 1827, 1952-1978

Estimated Date Ranges:
► approximately 1952-1978 OR circa 1870-1879

Single Dates:
► 1975
► 1975 March
► 1975 March 17

Estimated Dates:
► circa 1967
► before 1967
► after 1967 January 5
► 1960s

No Dates:
► undated


Data Entry Tips

(These notes pertain to typing information into an Excel sheet or ArchivesSpace)

 Do not put punctuation at the end of your collection, series, subseries, or folder titles. 
 Do not add unnecessary spaces after the folder titles or dates as this can cause additional spaces when entries are merged through a style sheet.
 Hyphens: Use a space on either side of a hyphen when used to separate ideas; do NOT use spaces in hyphenated words or time/date spans.
 Do not put extra spaces within parentheses (for example) ( not like this ), or before a colon (Like: this; Not : this)


You can add formatting to your notes and series/folder titles, but it is not a quick and easy process. Therefore, whenever possible, make formatting decisions during the data entry process rather than waiting for the end.

 Italicize the titles of published and significant works in the notes and the series/folder titles. When writing titles on folders, underline the words that should be italicized in the final version. When entering data, surround italicized words as such: <title render=“italic”>Title Name Here</title>
 For smaller works, such as essays or journal articles, surround the title in quotation marks: “Title Name Here”
 Elements that are bolded are generally handled through the style sheet (such as Section or Series titles), but should you find the need to bold text within a note or folder title, it is similar to the italics coding: <emph render=“bold”>Bold text here</emph>

Other Notes

► Capitalization: Use sentence structure – capitalize the first word and proper titles or names. DO NOT capitalize every word. Do capitalize the word directly after a colon (:).

► Initials: Put a space after each period in a name (J. R. R. Tolkien). For places, do not use a space (U.S., D.C.).

► Possessive case: If a word is singular, but ends in ‘s’, you still need to add ’s in the possessive case (e.g., Lawton Chiles’s notebooks).

► Commas: Please use the Oxford comma (comma used before the conjunction, e.g., one, two, and three) as it helps clarify your intention.

► Pluralization: An apostrophe is not used to pluralize a noun, date, or acronym (e.g., EAs, 1980s) and in cases of doubt (e.g., thank yous), please use a different phrase (e.g., thank you notes, thank you letters) 

► Miscellaneous: Avoid the use of "Miscellaneous" whenever possible. It doesn't really add anything to a description. If you absolutely must use the term in a series or folder title, please write a description that includes at least a list of the types of materials included therein (e.g., Miscellaneous financial materials).

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