Submission Guidelines

The following will help you make the most useful submissions to IDEA. But before you get started, please see our How To Submit a Sample page.

1. Choose great subjects! The best speakers will represent their dialect/accent in its strongest form. (Subjects who have lived the majority of their lives outside their representative region tend to not make the best choices, although there are exceptions. Please provide details of exactly where the subject has lived and for how long.) To see what regions still lack a representative recording, check our Global Map or Wish List.

2. In the interview (unscripted speech), downplay the question of your subjects’ pronunciation to prevent them from “improving” their speech.

3. If  you are a beginner, you may find our Recording Guidelines useful.

4. Your recording will contain BOTH of the following: first, your subject’s reading of Comma Gets A Cure (give it to your subject on a clipboard to avoid script rustle); and, second, unscripted speech of a least one minute, both on the same recording. (This unscripted speech is also necessary if you’re sending us a self-submission.) For the unscripted speech, ask the subject to talk about his or her family history, the place he or she was born and raised, his or her culture, place names, local idioms: the topics that will be most useful and add cultural as well as dialect/accent/linguistic value to IDEA. To elicit continuous speech rather than dialogue, you might ask the subject to begin with the words, “I was born …” and tell him or her that you won’t speak yourself unless absolutely necessary. (Your voice will be edited out of the final recording.) Avoid asking questions (difficult to edit out); instead use prompts like, “Please speak for a while about (desired topic) …” Then just smile and nod while they speak, staying completely mute yourself.

5. For ESL (English as Second Language speakers): If your subject speaks English in the accent of his or her first language, please ask him or her to speak briefly in that first language. The subject could read or recite some brief text (fifteen to thirty seconds) in his or her own first language and provide you a copy of it (in original language plus an English translation) for you to include in your transcription, or the subject could simply speak some additional unscripted speech about his or her culture or birthplace in the subject’s L1 (first language). (Click here for an example.) Total maximum recording time (Comma Gets a Cure reading, unscripted English speech, and unscripted L1 speech, if applicable): six minutes.

6. When you transcribe the recording, either orthographically or in IPA, here’s a good tip: In your recording software, Audacity perhaps, highlight one sentence in the waveform at a time and then use the loop-play function (press and hold Control or Shift as you click the play button) to play that sentence over  repeatedly until you have transcribed it perfectly, word for word, and are ready to move on. And don’t forget to include utterances that are not planned, such as “um” and “ah.” These utterances should be separated from regular speech using commas, NOT parentheses or brackets. (Brackets should be used only to insert content that the subject does NOT speak.) And for a guide to punctuation, see our Style Guide.

7. If you have the skill, please do initial editing of the recording yourself (deleting extraneous noises, normalize, fades, etc.).

8. Save the recording. And if you’re an IDEA editor or have submitted samples before, number the recording. For example, if this is your 15th submission to IDEA, the filename will be “YOURLASTNAME15.mp3″.

9. Read or explain the terms and conditions to your subjects and ask for their signature on the Subject Waiver. Explain that their anonymity is guaranteed. If you are sending us a self-submission (your own voice), it will be you who signs and submits the Subject Waiver. Your anonymity is still guaranteed, but if you want us to use your name, please let us know by e-mailing after you have made your submission.

10. Now you are ready to use the online submission tool. Just follow the prompts, entering information as fully as possible. Check the accuracy of your transcription, and all spelling.

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