How I Cut My Paperwork Time in HALF

Guys. This is a game changer. Seriously. Have you heard of a text expander? If you’re tired of paperwork, then you need to check it out!

A text expander allows you to create your own shortcuts. For example, if I always write “I love chocolate,” then I can enter a shortcut (e.g., .choc). Every time I type .choc, it will automatically “expand” to I love chocolate. Although I love chocolate, there are a number of slightly more functional ways to use this. Think frequently used phrases in evaluations/IEPs, evaluation/IEP templates, e-mail addresses, your credentials (all those fancy letters!), and so forth.

I used a text expander when I was in school, but I recently started using it to boost my productivity at work. Today, I’m sharing how this simple little tool can cut your writing time in HALF! As an added bonus, it might also reduce the number of typos in your reports.

Note: Some of you lucky ducks might have a paperwork program that already has this feature built in. If so, you can jump right ahead and start thinking about how else you might use this tool to save yourself some time!

What are the options?

I use TextExpander. This is one of the pricier options, but I chose it because I can sync between all of my devices. I use a few different computers/devices for work, so that was a very important feature for me! They have a free 30-day trial if you want to give it a try!

aText is a good option if you’re on a Mac. It’s $4.99. They also have a free 21-day trial!

Windows friends? You’re in luck. You can try Texter for free. (Caveat: I haven’t tried it myself yet, but I will let you know as soon as I do.) They have paid options out there, but I’ve heard that this one will do the job.

I tried a Google Chrome extension (Auto Text Expander) because I reeeeeeally wanted to be able to quickly sync my “codes” between multiple computers. Unfortunately, the expander wouldn’t work in my school’s IEP program, so I had to find a different option. It could work for you, though!

So, let’s hop to it. How do you use this text expander?

STEP 1: Review Your Paperwork

Go through your evaluation and IEP paperwork. Make a list of the things you are always having to type.
I already had a template made for the redundant phrases in my paperwork (e.g., student considerations, prior notice, etc.). I also went through and created templates for frequently administered tests (e.g., a test description and placeholders for test scores/interpretations). Before I started using the text expander, I would open my document and go back and forth to copy over the information. This was kind of annoying, and I didn’t even consistently use the templates I made.

Yes, this may take some time, but I promise it’ll be worth it!

STEP 2: Add Your Phrases

Add your “template” phrases to your text expander.

I made up an abbreviation, put in the content, and made a label (optional). So easy!

Check out the video above for a tutorial on how to get this set up! Click here to download the FREE step-by-step guide.

Another tip? I use “***” as a placeholder for the student’s name (or appropriate pronoun). When I’m filling in the report, I can hit CTRL+F (Windows) or COMMAND+F (Mac) to quickly find and replace all the stars. You can also use a similar trick for pronouns (e.g., type “his/her” and then search to replace with the correct pronoun).

STEP 3: Make a Cheat Sheet

You won’t need this forever, but it’s helpful to have a list of your “shortcuts” at your fingertips. Having a list can also help you make sure you don’t miss any important parts of the IEP. Anyone else always forget to mention the oral mech exam?

Better yet, just open up the program and make the window smaller. I pull it up next to the program that I use for my IEPs for easy reference.

STEP 4: Write Your Evaluations and IEPs at Record Speeds!

Now that you are completing paperwork at record speeds, what will you do with your time?

Let me know what you think in the comments below! Do you already use a text expander, or do you think you might use one? How else might you use this simple tool?


Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

Reader Interactions


    • It looks like the Mac version (aText) does! You just have to change it from “Plan text” to “Formatted text” (see attached image). It should work if you create a template table in Word first, then copy it over to aText.
      aText Table

  1. Just googled and discovered a free way to do this on a Word (Mac or PC)! Go to preferences–> autocorrect and type in replace with a short cut (.slp) then include what you want in the with (e.g. .slp=speech-language pathologist). You can also include tables if you select formatted text!!

  2. hello, I am excited to try this TEXT EXPANDER THINGAMAJIG.
    I have reached out to the IT department at my school to see if I can get this free with school and I am looking forward to their response.
    My question for you is…How do you know if any of the text expanders WILL work with the IEP program? is this just a try it and see? I will also ask the IEP program peeps too.

    Hope AZ is not too hot yet. I miss my AZ!

    • Yay!!! Which program are you planning on using? TextExpander? Or something else? If you’re using the TextExpander app, it has worked with every single program on my computer!

      • HI, I do not know which one I am going to use yet. IT is looking into all options so I am going to send him your blog post on the ones you have mentioned. IT dept did say we will have one in place for next year. THANK YOU

  3. Hi, I never heard of a text expander till I heard it on one of your podcast. Thanks for the tip. But now, I am wondering do we need to be worried about hippa compliancy? I guess I don’t understand enough about text expander and want reassurance before I start to use what likes like a valuable time savor. Thanks for any help with this.


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