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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Play It Again – Expanding Your Expanders: Adding Text Expanders As You Go

First published 6/5/08

When I started transcription I did not have a foot pedal. I put off getting one for three months, instead believing that my hotkey speed had increased to the point where I would not benefit significantly from one. Then my foot pedal arrived and I was amazed at how much better my hands felt after a day of working and how much more productive I actually was.

For the next six months I worked using only AutoCorrect in Word, plugging along through my files, never really taking full advantage of what you could actually put in there. At some point I had an epiphany, albeit a tardy one, and I added my first real text expanders to AutoCorrect. Suddenly, "idt," "idth," "idwt" and "idk" expanded to "I don't," "I don't think," "I don't want to" and "I don't know." Still, despite my new love for shortcuts, I managed to put off purchasing a text expander program for another year, only fully realizing what I had been missing when I installed ShortKeys on my computer and started really utilizing it as often as I possibly could.

Ever since my ShortKeys purchase, I have vowed to not let lackadaisical thinking and behaviors get in between me and my productivity. (Well, at least not too much.) One way I do this is by constantly adding new words to my ShortKeys program as I go along. If I am working on a file where a term is used frequently, I'll take the 30 seconds to hit control and the up arrow to bring up ShortKeys and enter that term. I can't even begin to tell you how many times this has paid off down the road.

Just yesterday I was working on a file that was discussing multiculturalism. While "multiculturalism" may not be a word that is used on an everyday basis in my transcription, I had added it for a particular file a while back. On those occasions when I do get to use it, I find great satisfaction in cutting down my keystrokes from 16 to 5. When I originally added it I made sure to add the word "multicultural" as "mcul" and then used ShortKeys' "Replace Word" button to add all the suffixes.

This has also been useful when I've run into speakers with repetitive speech patterns. For example, I once had a speaker who constantly said "quite frankly" during an interview. I added that to my list, and I've used that ShortKey numerous times since then, even though not every speaker uses it.

While both of those are words that can be used in everyday speech, the practice of adding words as you go can also be helpful for common terminology that we hear in the present day and time. Mandi and I had a discussion just today on how I had added Web 2.0 to my ShortKeys list while doing a group of files because of its prevalence in today's language. The reason we were talking about Web 2.0? She was typing it in one of her own files, of course.

Taking the time to add text expanders may seem like a hassle when you run across them; however, you'd be surprised at how the little things can really make a big difference down the road. If you've been putting off buying a text expander program as I did, seriously consider investing in one or at least start utilizing your AutoCorrect before I did. Productivity is huge in this industry, and this is definitely one way to increase that immensely. You can find an introduction to text expanders here, and Tara also provided some excellent advice on different systems for adding words to your text expander program here.