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Shortcuts Corner: Getting Started with Word Expanders

Shortcuts Corner

Getting Started with Word-Expansion Technology

By Betsy Ertel, CEO, AHDI-F, and Kristin Wall, CHDS, AHDI-F


Back in the day secretaries used what was called shorthand, which is a method of rapid writing by means of abbreviations and symbols, used especially for taking dictation. Legal scribes use a stenotype machine in which the keyboard has far fewer keys than a conventional alphanumeric keyboard. Multiple keys are pressed simultaneously (known as “chording” or “stroking”) to spell out whole syllables, words, and phrases with a single hand motion. In transcription, word-expansion software is used to document words, phrases, or paragraphs using very few keystrokes.


Terminology you may hear to describe the use of word expansion software varies but it all means the same thing. For example, you may hear people use terms such as “word expanders,” “macros,” or “keyboard shortcuts.”


There are a multitude of vendors* who sell word-expander programs, such as SpeedType, Smartype, Instant Text, Shorthand for Windows, and many others.


The Shortcuts Corner will teach you shortcuts used with keyboarding as well as text expansion systems and their uniqueness within the Windows environment. This article in particular will teach you some basics about how to save some (or rather, lots and lots!) keystrokes at your keyboard. Let’s get started!


Short form = long form is the technique that will bring about the result you want. If you have an abbreviation expansion system on your PC, take advantage of what it can do for you by creating some shortcuts as suggested below.


A keyword turns into a longer form with your action. Examples:


AHDI = Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity


owls = Observe, Work, Learn, Succeed


sys = See you soon!


scm = sternocleidomastoid


llq = left lower quadrant


ruq = right upper quadrant


When you type boilerplate sentences, repetitive phrases, or complex words multiple times, you can benefit greatly by creating your own unique system. For example, there will be times when abbreviations are dictated as well as times when the full phrase or sentence is dictated, but you can’t use the same macros for both. This conundrum is short-lived because the solution is simply to use a symbol at the end of your macro shortcut to indicate the alternate version or multiple alternate versions. Let me show you what I mean.


Here are some examples:


heent    =    HEENT

heent-   =    head, ears, eyes, nose, and throat

heent:   =    HEENT:


mi          =    MI

mi-         =    myocardial infarction


cabg      =    CABG

cabg-     =    coronary artery bypass graft


chf         =    CHF

chf-        =    congestive heart failure


hpi         =    HPI

hpi-        =    history of present illness



As you can see, typed abbreviations alone may be used for the capitalized version of the abbreviation, while a hyphen (-) is used at the end of an abbreviation to denote you want to use the expanded version. Spend some time thinking about how you want to use your expanders and develop a system that makes sense to you so that you’ll easily remember it.


This Shortcuts Corner will enlighten you on more keystroke-saving techniques. Stay tuned for what’s next around the Shortcuts Corner!


*Disclaimer: Vendors or software programs mentioned in this article are for informational purposes only and should not be seen as an endorsement by AHDI of any particular vendor or service. Users are encouraged to complete independent research all products and services available on the market in order to make the best choice for your needs and circumstances.