Transcription of the letters and documents has been retained as closely as possible to the original. Capitalization, punctuation, spelling and paragraphing have been preserved as they appear in the original text. Mrs. Washington's habit of using dashes for punctuation persisted throughout her life; they have been retained. Misspellings of places and proper names have been preserved as written. Should any misinterpretation or doubt be encountered, an explanatory note is provided. All superscripts have been lowered. Round brackets have been used to denote missing, mutilated, and illegible words. Datelines have been placed as they appear in the original. When dates have been omitted, an approximation, as close as possible, has been made and placed in brackets at the head of the document. In several instances obviously incorrect dates have been used. They have been noted and the correct date inserted. Document symbols are those recently recommended by the Manuscript Society's Criteria for Describing Manuscripts and Documents ( 1990).
In preparing the manuscript, the editor was presented with the same question as that faced by Washington's great biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman: By what name shall Mrs. Washington be called? The solution was somewhat easier than Freeman's. Before her first marriage she is referred to as Martha Dandridge. Following her first marriage she is referred to as Martha Dandridge Custis; in the footnotes of this period it is abbreviated to MDC. Following her marriage to George Washington, she is called Martha Washington or Mrs. Washington, and in the footnotes as MW. George Washington is referred to as Colonel, General, President, or former President, as best fits the time. In footnotes he is designated GW.