The Basics of BLUEPHRASE

Shorthand Notation for Writers

Distraction-free authoring with smart tech for people who type

by Joe Honton

Never heard of BLUEPHRASE? Want to know what it's all about? Here's what you need to know.

BLUEPHRASE is plain text with shorthand notation. Here's the scoop.

Word processors have features for enhancing the layout and typography of your composition. This is possible because they enclose your words in wrappers, albeit wrappers that only WP software can understand. If you open your document using a plain-text editor, you'll see these wrappers as large chunks of unintelligible codes, and your words will barely be readable. Any changes you make will risk damaging the document because word processing documents are not suitable for editing with a plain-text editor.

In contrast, BLUEPHRASE enables the same word processing features with shorthand notation. Your words become primary, and the shorthand notation becomes secondary. When you open a BLUEPHRASE document using a plain-text editor, you'll see these notational marks sprinkled throughout your composition, but your words will be readable and editable without any special software.

With BLUEPHRASE, instead of saving your composition to a .docx, .odt, .rtf, or .md file format, you save it to a .blue file format.

Files saved with a .blue file extension are automatically converted into HTML — the format universally understood by Web browsers — with the BLUEPROCESSOR. The visual aspects of your composition are rendered when a browser reads that HTML.

Three basic phrase types

BLUEPHRASE shorthand notation may be applied to words, paragraphs or sections of your composition. For convenience sake, the word phrasing is used to describe all of these. The BLUEPHRASE language has three essential syntactic forms: basic phrasing, container phrasing, and term phrasing.

Basic phrasing is a line of text in a manuscript. A paragraph is the quintessential basic phrase. It includes everything from the beginning of the line to the end of the line, except the leading whitespace and trailing whitespace, which are ignored.

Container phrasing is a wrapper for a group of basic phrases. It uses an opening curly-brace { to begin the grouping, and a closing curly-brace } to end the grouping. Any number of basic phrases may be placed between the opening and closing braces, and nested containers are also allowed.

Term phrasing is delimited by two less-than signs << and two greater-than signs >>. With BLUEPHRASE, terms are words that are italicized or underlined or made bold.

What is semantax?

At the beginning of each phrase, you have the option to type a few mnemonic characters to define the semantic meaning of the phrase. These mnemonics are called semantax.

Semantax use the same mnemonics that are used by HTML, so if you know the basics of HTML, you'll have no trouble getting started with BLUEPHRASE.

If you're not familiar with HTML, here's a quick guide to some of the semantax used with term phrasing:

  • i for italics
  • b for bold
  • u for underline
  • a for hyperlinks
  • img for images

Basic phrasing uses semantax like:

  • h1, h2, h3 for section headings
  • p for paragraphs
  • li for list items
  • td for table data

Container phrasing uses many specialized types of semantax, each one controlling the document's layout in predefined ways. For example:

  • section for a related set of paragraphs
  • aside for a separate group of paragraphs
  • table for grids of rows and columns
  • ol for numbered lists
  • ul for bulleted lists

These are the most common semantax that most writers need, but specialized semantax exist for almost every authoring need. BLUEPHRASE allows any HTML tag name to be used as semantax. This is important, because it means that BLUEPHRASE is not limited the way Markdown and wikitext are. The full power of HTML is at your fingertips.

Implied semantax

Semantax for phrases are optional, and if omitted will be implied based on the current context. Usually the implied semantax will be a p, resulting in a paragraph, but there are several commonly used container phrases that have a different implied semantax. For example, when a group of basic phrases are contained within an ol or ul, the implied semantax will be an li (list item), so there's no need to type the li.

And as another example, when a table is specified, the phrases it contains have an implied semantax of tr creating a table row. Plus, the phrases within each table row are implied to be td (table data). This means that you can create a grid of columns and rows without ever explicitly typing tr or td.


  • Shorthand notation is a way for authors to provide formatting instructions that are readable and editable without any special software.
  • Your composition is saved in plain-text files with a .blue filename extension.
  • The three essential phrasing forms are: basic, container and term.
  • Semantax is a mnemonic to specify semantic meaning.

Shorthand Notation for Writers - Distraction-free authoring with smart tech for people who type

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