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Optimizing Your Personal Abbreviation List (PAL)

When you first start out transcribing, you will want to focus on Top 40 usage, long word abbreviations, and getting the hang of "listen, process, plan, type, repeat." As you gain experience, you will realize that there are certain words that keep coming up for which you would like a quicker abbreviation. 

For me, three such words are "yesterday," "everybody," and "everything." These words come up so frequently that even a 3-letter abbreviation seems tedious. So, I added the following entries to my Personal Abbreviation List (PAL): "yy" for yesterday, "eb" for everybody, and "eg" for everything. These are just a few examples of my "permanent" PAL entries.

When building your own PAL, if you are going to use similar short (2-3 letter), lowercase abbreviations, you should first check whether they already expand to a different common word, so that you do not override an abbreviation you might actually find useful. For example, in Turbo mode, "eg" expands to "e.g." and "yy" expands to "yearly," so you may decide those are worth keeping as-is instead of replacing them.

Here are a few tips to get the most mileage out of your PAL.

1. Make sure you actually use the entries you add.

I generally have a group of permanent PAL entries that I use all the time, and then I have entries I add for just one class or semester. When you pull up your PAL, if you click on the "Days" header, it will sort the entries by how many days have elapsed since you last used them. Take some time to audit your list and consider removing any entries you haven't used within the last couple weeks.

2. Become skillful with adding new entries on the fly.

When you are transcribing a class, you can usually tell within the first few minutes what the topic for the day will be. If the class is talking about the novel Crime and Punishment, take a few seconds to semi-colon highlight that title and create a PAL entry. For on-the-fly abbreviations, I like to use capital letters so there are no conflicts. In this case, I would make "CP" my abbreviation and let "cp" remain... just in case they started talking about coupe price trends.

If you have explored the help documentation about the MultiPAL feature that was rolled out with V7 a few years ago, you learned that you can create different "PAL profiles" using the "F" (function) keys. I have honestly just kept one profile. I am able to do this because I regularly audit my PAL and delete entries once I am not using them anymore. However, if you want to keep separate lists for each individual class, here is a nice touch: Create an entry for the name of the professor or teacher for the class.

Optimizing Pal Instructor Name Screenshot

Just change the "new expansion" for "pr" to "Professor Jones:", and then configure a PAL profile for Prof. Jones' class so that her speaker identifier comes up automatically when you are transcribing her class.

3. Create class header abbreviations.

At the start of each semester, I create new entries for each class that include the information required for the header of my transcript. The specifics of a proper header vary based on the organization you work with, but they usually include the class title, transcriber name, and the date of class. Here is an example of a PAL entry for a class header:

Class Header screenshot

I load in the class title, my information, and "{date}" into the PAL, and the abbreviation for this class header is usually the student's first name, in all caps. Note, the "{date}" will insert today's date, pulled from your computer's settings. So, if that does not expand accurately, check your computer's date settings to remedy. This is true also for using "{time}". The accuracy of those auto-insert fields will rely on your computer settings, including time zone, so you might need to to clarify which time zone you are in by adding something like "PST."

The PAL feature is a great resource when used properly. 

It is full of potential and is as valuable as you want to make it.  Left unattended it can make for a really confusing transcript when unintended expansions keep popping up. Keep your PAL up-to-date, get good at adding new abbreviations on the fly, and save time by creating shortcuts for things you type all the time. Soon you will think of your PAL more like a best friend. 

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Christy Joy Hack

Christy Hack is a freelance remote-based TypeWell transcriber and mother of two boys. Working remotely allows her to continually redefine her definition of what it means to be a stay-at-home mom.

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