Whether you’re onboarding to a new job, learning a new skill, or studying a technical field like a programming language or anatomy, you’ve seen them. Acronyms. Tenured folks will rattle them off without batting an eye, rapidly flitting from project to process, team to software, division to tools.

It can be intimidating for the newcomer. But abbreviations function as a shorthand. They reduce redundancy, serve as mnemonic units, and, once mastered, convey a lot in just a few words. So take heart! It’s easy to master a new domain’s abbreviations and technical terms. You need only develop a consistent habit and have a useful note-taking tool. Let’s take a look.

Microsoft OneNote isn’t my note-taking or KMS (Knowledge Management System) of choice. However, I work as a consultant, and my clients often have security-restricted environments that require me to work with it. Although my KMS of choice is Obsidian.md, OneNote has just enough functionality to build a lexicon of terms and abbreviations. Here’s how.

Add a new section. Sections in OneNote serve like notebooks within notebooks. All the notes created in a section live together. That’s exactly what we want. I label mine “Lexicon” because it sounds fancier than “Glossary,” but you do what makes sense for you.

Create an index. I label my index “_index” so it’s always alphabetically sorted to the top of the page. You could call this a “_Table of Contents” or whatever you like. On your index page, create 26 headings labeled A through Z. This is where you’ll define your new terms.

Define your terms by creating new pages with the double bracket shortcut. Here’s where the magic happens. OneNote allows you to create new pages using a shorthand: two open brackets, followed by the note title, followed by two closing brackets, like this:

[[GRC - Governance, Risk, & Compliance]]

My convention is to define the acronym in the note title, creating the new note alphabetically in the index. Glancing at my index, I can quickly find and remember a new term. Moreover, if I need additional details, links, or context, I can add them to the newly created note. Sort your section alphabetically, and OneNote will automatically create a sensible list for you.

Thats it! I can often add ten or so terms a day on a new engagement or the start of a new study. The key is to develop the habit of curiosity. Every single time you see a new term or acronym you don’t know, take note of it and get it defined by the end of the day. In short order, you’ll have a personal lexicon of terminology that will launch your success.

Questions? Comments? Find me on Twitter/X @nickgracilla, or on Mastadon @nickgracilla.