One of the keys (and first steps) to interpreting the Ramey memo is knowing the lengths of each word to prevent spurious reads. Sometimes this is very obvious because each space between words and each letter in a word is clearly demarcated and the word length can be determined by eye. Other times it is not obvious. Letters are faint, poorly formed, in shadow, and/or distorted and compressed by page curvature such as dipping into the center crease of the paper. The center crease in particular has caused confusion between readers, resulting in different character counts and diverging reads.
The graphic below (only 40% of maximum resolution) illustrates how to resolve some of these word length disputes. We can take advantage of the fact that impact printers like typewriters and teletypes have equal widths for each character (nonproportional font). Columns of text on different rows of text will line up with one another. Drawing in the columns enable us to objectively and accurately count the characters. (See graphic caption for description of how column lines were drawn across the message.)
In the graphic, the white numbers along General Ramey's thumb represent the message line numbers. Words highlighted in yellow are some of the disputed word lengths, and the red numbers next to them are the character counts found by lining up columns across the entire message. (Character counts are then made by simply counting the column lines between word spaces.) In some cases, there is still some ambiguity in the character count because of possible faint or indistinct characters. (indicated by two red numbers such as "5-6")
Central column lines can also help readers distinguish one possible character from another. E.g., letters like "I" or T" would be expected to have the vertical downstroke centered, whereas an "E" or "F" should have the downstroke left of center.
Below the graphic is my commentary on many of the disputed words and why I may reject consensus or alternate reads of others because of incorrect letter counts. The only way around this restriction is to assume misspellings of words, but I think this is a dangerous, open-ended assumption that can lead to innumerable spurious reads, or "anything goes." Therefore, I reject misspellings and the words that arise from them. (However, I have allowed myself possibly one on line 5, as discussed below.)
Comments on disputed words
Line 2 (towards end): Definitely 9 characters here, but one reader has an erroneous 10. Strong consensus word is FORWARDED.
Line 4 (left of crease): Almost all read first word as "DISC" or "DISK" (in quotes, thus 6 characters in all) followed by a 4-letter word, but two readers claim it is *BLACK BOX*, with the asterisk (*) indicating some unknown or unspecified character. The character count discrepancy could be resolved by placing the words in quotes ("BLACK BOX"), but it is obvious that the second word is being read as *BOX, not BOX*. This alone would result in a rejection of the read. (I also reject the read because of stong disagreement with some of the characters in the first word. The readers were using lower-resolution scans. Where they have "LA", the characters are very clearly "IS".)
LIne 4 (end of line): Although there is no agreement on this mystery word, the columns show it is clearly 8 characters in length, perhaps a 7-letter word and punctuation mark (comma or period). Thus interpretations like the overly long LABORATORY should be rejected, even if it may be sensible or plausible in the context of the read (such as ATOMIC LABORATORY).
Line 5 (left center): I see a clear, very common and simple word "OR" followed by a space and then a 3-letter word (I have "C47"), followed by a period or comma. Most others make this into a single 6-letter word (such as "URGENT" or "HAUGHT"), ignoring the space. The space is surrounded by very dark characters, making a sudden letter drop-out unlikely. There is a slight amount of random film grain clustering in the space, which I suspect is confusing people, but this area is much lighter than the surrounding characters, and the small grain clustering is no different than in other blank areas of the page, such as the spaces between lines.
Line 5 (left of crease): Almost all read this small word as 3 letters (followed by a 6-character word), but the column lines indicate it is unambiguously only 2-characters. This is the main reason I strongly disagree with the consensus read of ARE, as in "POWERS ARE NEEDED", and reject the whole phrase. Instead I have AF for Air Field, and the phrase as WRIGHT AF ASSESS/ASSIST something taking place "AT ROSWELL." (following words). One reader has also recently tried to ignore the obvious space and turn this into a single 9-letter word, instead of 2-letters, space, 6-letters.
Line 5 (next-to-last word): This is clearly 8 characters in length, probably a 7-letter word followed by comma or period. Originally read as 10 characters, the 9-letter word MAGDALENA followed by a comma. This was obviously wrong. Instead I proposed the 7-letter ROSWELL with period/comma following punctuation. This is now the consensus read, including by the group who originally read MAGDALENA. Another proposal by one reader is CARLSBAD, which could only work if there was a misspelling or no following punctuation (although completely read as CARLSBAD NMEX, which would call for a comma after CARLSBAD, unless another typing mistake was made). Again, CARLSBAD is a likely an erroneous read because word length is wrong. Also Carlsbad has no known connection to the Roswell incident, which this message is clearly about. (The universally agreed-upon "WEATHER BALLOONS" on the right side of Line 7 alone establishes this.)
Line 5 (last word): Logically read by most as the 4 letter NMEX for New Mexico (to follow after "ROSWELL,") followed by a period to end the sentence. I question the likelihood of the unorthodox abbreviation NMEX instead of the standard NM. In addition, the first two characters look strongly like "AS" to me. Instead I have it as "ASSURE", the first word of the next sentence. The main problem here for me is the character count, which appears to be 5, not 6, and may be a 4-letter word followed by punctuation (as in "NMEX."). My rationale here is that I think there may be a very faint "E" at the end (same problem as the two L's in Roswell which are also very faint and need to be brought out by contrast enhancement). Either that or I have to assume a misspelling (which would be the only instance in my read of the message). Therefore, I'm the one on shakier ground here, not the group read. Recently I have considered the word ABOUT as a 5-letter possibility, as in "ABOUT (next line) NOON", when the press release from Roswell base was first sent out.
Line 6 (center crease): Another crease distortion problem, the consensus read is the 9-letter NEWSPAPER, but there are clearly only 8 characters here when the columns are counted. So again I strongly disagree with the consensus read and instead have MISSTATE (which shares 3 common letters with NEWSPAPER: S, A, & E). Another reader has a similar MISTATED, with the word deliberately misspelled to make it fit, also destroying any character overlap between reads. (He assumes Ramey personally typed the message and typically misspelled words with double characters. He also misspells another double-letter word to make it fit elsewhere in the message. I think these are very strained and dubious assumptions.) Another individual read, the 10-character, two-word "WANTED FOR", is also clearly wrong. Whatever, most readers seem to agree this line is something about the somewhat missleading Roswell base press release to the media that preceded this message by about 2 hours. (hence, NEWSPAPER/MISSTATE MEANING/VERSION OF STORY).
Line 6 (end word): There is a little ambiguity here because the last letter is faint, but it is most likely 5 characters, not 4, as most readers do indeed interpret it. (I originally read it as 4-characters--"SAID"--but now believe it reads THINK.) The 7-character MISSION of one read is clearly wrong.
Line 7 (left of crease): One reader interprets this as the 5-letter COULD, but everybody else reads it as 4 letters. The column count undeniably confirms only 4 characters here.
Line 7 (around center crease): There are 5 characters here, not 6 as some interpret it. These are two 2-letter words separated by a clear space. Therefore, words like FOR for the first word should be rejected, as should another 6 character single-word read across the span. I and one other read this phrase as PR OF WEATHER BALLOONS, i.e., the PR or Press Release about the Roswell object being a weather balloon, that came out on the newswires within about an hour after this photo. Most agree this is the subject matter of this line, although disagreeing on exact wording.
Line 8 (center crease): Nobody agrees on this mystery word (perhaps military jargon), again distorted by the crease, but column count shows 9 characters here. Therefore 8 and 10 character solutions should be rejected.
Signature line: I orginally proposed RAMEY here. Now read by most as RAMEY, RRAMEY, or "R_RAMEY" (with space).. The last interpretation with the separated lead "R" is a spurious read probably caused by random faint film grain that looks like an "R", but clearly lies between character positions, as shown by center column lines that surround it. (not clearly visible here in lower-resolution graphic). There is an ambiguous 5 or 6 characters for the rest (hence RAMEY or RRAMEY) since last one or two characters are faint and not clear. I think confusion may be caused by what appears to be handwriting slanting up and crossing the end of the word creating appearance of a 6th character. The fifth letter is also very faint, or perhaps nonexistent, thus perhaps a typo misspelling of "RAME_Y". Whatever, the consensus read is nonetheless that the message was indeed signed by General Ramey, so the exact read is largely academic.