I'm in the process of moving from one computer to another, and one of the things I really miss so far is a good keystroke macro program.
That's a program, a communication technology, that allows you to trigger long strings of text, including names and email addresses, with just a couple of keystrokes.
For example, I often have to write out the name of my book, A Manager's Guide to Newsletters: Communicating for Results. With a macro, I simply type "mgx" (without the quotation marks) to write out the first half of the title (up to the colon), or "mgc" to write out the full title.
If you've used them yourself, you know how handy it is to be able to have shortcuts to commonly-used pieces of text (also called boilerplate).
Almost every kind of writing uses commonly-repeated words and names, and once you get used to using macros, they save a lot of time that would otherwise be spent hammering on the keyboard.
They're especially useful for snippets of text that involve hard- to-reach characters on the keyboard. For example, when you type an email address, you have to reach to the upper left corner of the screen to hit the "@" key. So, I have macros for commonly used email addresses: "abcx" for "email@example.com" and "ralx" for "firstname.lastname@example.org"
As the latter macro suggests, it helps to have a shortcut that resembles the text that will be written out. You can also use keyboard function keys or combinations of keystrokes as your shortcuts, whatever works best for you.
It's also helpful, if you don't already have shortcuts or macros, to start with a few and add them slowly. That way you don't have to think about them; each becomes well established in your memory. In my experience, if you have to stop and look for the shortcut, you've probably lost much of the advantage that's gained by using them.
In the same vein, consider boilerplate email messages. I use the Eudora email program, which calls them 'stationery' and makes their use relatively easy. In this case, you're not just shortcutting a word or phrase -- you're shortcutting an entire email message. Some other email programs allow you to do the same sort of thing.
To create a piece of stationery, simply open a new email message form and put in your return address, the subject line, and the text of the message. Then save it as a stationery file in an appropriate folder. When you need to send that message again, simply get a copy from the folder, insert the address of the person you want to contact, and click the Send button.
You could, of course, do essentially the same thing with a macro program, but it's faster and easier if your email program lets you create these boilerplate messages.
I use stationery messages for routine thank-yous, for follow-ups on various projects, and for responding to certain types of inquiries. You wouldn't use them for important messages or messages requiring a personalized response.
However you do it, the important thing is to use boilerplate tools when you can. They're one of the easiest and most effective tools for time-efficient writing.
About The Author
Robert F. Abbott writes and publishes Abbott's Communication Letter. Each week subscribers receive, at no charge, a new communication tip that helps them lead or manage more effectively. Click here for more information: http://www.CommunicationNewsletter.com