Wednesday 23 April 2014

Typing Productivity - Part 1 - Phrases

A Free Document Productivity Tool for Word

This tool describes an abbreviation system to reduce the typing load for business and technical documents.  

Part 1 deals quickly entering multi-word phrases that are often repeated in such documents.    Part  2 deals with abbreviations for long words and words that are very frequently used.  Part 3 provides a tool that automates the job of looking up and adding new abbreviations. Part 4 allows you to bulk import and export your abbreviations, and includes a dictionary of over 1000 abbreviations.

An abbreviation system has two important benefits:
  • Using abbreviations increases your typing throughput, regularly used phrases and long words can be typed with just a few characters.
  • Abbreviations makes typing more accurate because shorter words are easier type and the chances of needing to edit the word later are reduced.


AutoCorrect provides a general purpose tool for expanding an abbreviation to full text. For example the abbreviation "typpro" is expanded by AutoCorrect to be "typing productivity". 

I had used AutoCorrect concept in the past, but found the experience frustrating because I could only remember a handful of abbreviations.

I propose the B2E system – a set of simple rules that allow you to generate the abbreviation in your mind as you generate content.  They need to be simple so you can use them without being distracted as you type.

The B2E system – Part 1 - Phrases

The B2E system is intended for general purpose rather than specialist or high volume.  It focuses on the big ticket items – speeding up the entry of regularly used phrases and long words.

To use B2E, the abbreviation and its corresponding full text need to be loaded into the Word dictionary. This can be done manually or imported via a spreadsheet (see part 3).  Once this is done, the abbreviations will be available in all Office apps (e.g. Excel, Visio ) provided you keep using the same dictionary.

Rule 1 – Three or more word phrases 

Use the beginning  letter of each of the words in the phrases.  For example:
  • rar  = roles and responsibilities
  • isra = Information Security Risk Assessment

You can capitalise the full text if that is the way it is normally expressed
See also Rule 3 – Acronyms

Rule 2 – Two word Phrases

Use the beginning three letters of each word.  For example:
  • buspro = business process
  • secreq = security requirement
Using this method often creates pronounceable phrases which also helps you remember them.  I often find myself using the abbreviation in hand written notes too. 

Rule 3 – Acronyms and suffixes

If the phrase already has an acronym, use the lower case – it is generally easier to type.  For example:
  • iam = IAM
If you need to express the full version of the acronym, use the x=expand suffix.  For example:
  • owa =OWA
  • owax = Outlook Web Access
If you need plurals, use the s=suffix. For example:
  • buspros = business processes
  • secreqs = security requirements
If you need both lower case and title versions of the phrase,  use the c=capitalise suffix. For example:
  • caa = certification and accreditation
  • caac = Certification and Accreditation

Further Notes

Entry of Abbreviations

The quick addition of new abbreviations is essential for making full use of B2E. I like to have the autocorrect entry dialogue available with a single click on the Quick Access bar, it is too far buried to be useful in its natural location.  See this Post  which describes:
  • how to add the menu option to the quick access bar; and
  • how to enter abbreviations.


One of the problems with any abbreviation system is the management of collisions, this is where the abbreviation is itself a real word, or where the rules generate the same abbreviation for two different words.  Both these are intrusive and prevent smooth typing. B2E does a reasonable job of keeping these to a minimum, and provides a generic method of dealing with them if they do.  

Part 2 provides more insight into what distinguishes B2E from other similar processes.

Typing Expanders

Abbreviation systems are often called typing expanders and work a little like the predictive text systems seen on smartphones.  There are many typing expanders on the market,  the basic model ones  provide word choices based on dictionaries, while the more advanced ones learn from what you type and offer predictions based on context.  

There are two main issues I have with typing expanders:
  • Typing expanders are not suitable for me because they require software to be installed on the device.  I work on client sites and such installations are not possible.
  • Typing expanders often rely on presenting narrowing choices based on the characters typed so far.  I felt thinking about the list would distract me from creating the content.
I stumbled across this site run by Jon Knowles. Jon describes the ABCZ method, which is great for use with typing expanders, but generates too many collisions for an AutoCorrect based system like B2E.  However, I do recognise the inspiration provided by Jon, and if you are interested in typing expanders, very high volume typing concepts or transcription tools, please visit his site.  

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