About Q&A Phrasings and how to add them to your workbook

Note   This article applies to the previous Power BI experience (commonly called Power BI for Office 365), and not to the new Power BI experience. Try the new Power BI. Read more about migrating from Power BI for Office 365 to the new Power BI.

There are three categories of phrasings: auto-generated and core are created by Excel. Custom are the ones the user and/or admin creates themselves, and they come in seven flavors: Attribute, Name, Noun, Adjective, Verb, Preposition, and Global Synonyms.

When you add custom phrasings to your data model, you improve Q&A results. In essence, you’re teaching Q&A to understand how users speak about your data. Phrasings can be new words that define or describe data in your workbook. Phrasings can also be a way to describe how two or more objects in your workbook are related.

Why add phrasings

As the data modeler, you are a unique position. You understand both the underlying tables, rows and measures and you also have a good ideas as to what types of questions users will ask. Q&A won’t always understand the questions users ask and users won’t always know how to word their questions to get good results. But you can close that gap by adding phrasings to the data model.

Add phrasings to define a new term

If you want to be able to ask “who has the longest jump?” you must first teach Q&A what you mean by “long”. The phrasing you add might be “long jumps are jumps with the largest distance.”

Add phrasings to resolve ambiguity

Without understanding how the data is related, users ask questions that provide unhelpful answers. For example, “athletes who won gold in France” is different from “athletes who won gold from France.” Add phrasings so Q&A understands the distinction between “in” and “from”:

“athletes win in a host country” and “athletes are from a countryregion”

Add phrasings for data-specific semantics

Your data may have terminology and concepts that need to be defined. Perhaps you have the concept of "outstocked products" that means those products where the OnHandQuantity is zero. If you create the phrasing "outstocked products have OnHandQuantity equal to 0" then your users can ask questions about outstocked products.

Add phrasings to improve confidence in results

Restatements appear as you type a question in the Q&A question box. Users will trust the answers more if the restatement shows a true understanding of the question. If you ask “show athletes and medals as a table” and Q&A restates this as “show the last name of athletes and the medals they won as a table,” you’ll have more confidence in the resulting visualization.

Types of Phrasings

There are many types of phrasings and they are all added using the Phrasings tab in Q&A Optimize View. For more information on a particular phrasing type:

For a great overview of phrasings, see the blog post about Demystifying Power BI Q&A.

Phrasings can be combined and nested

You’ll find that you often need to combine more than one phrasing type to get the result you need. For example, verb and adjective phrasings are often combined with preposition phrasings, where the preposition phrasing defines a “condition” that must be met.

“athletes win medals at competitions”

“I medalists are athlete names from <list European countryregions>”

And nested phrasings allow you to create more than one condition or attribute that defines the new phrasing. For example:

Team is event per year per event gender where medal count > 6”

Duo is event per year per event gender where medal count =6”

Individual is event per year per event gender where medal count =3”

Attribute Phrasings

Attribute phrasings describe a basic relationship using the verb “have,” “of,” “for,” or possessives. Excel auto-generates most of these based on the structure of your data model, but there may be others you want to add.

This article provides more information about attribute phrasings.

Name Phrasings

Name phrasings are helpful if your data model has a table that contains named objects – like athlete names and host city names. If the model uses sensible naming conventions (e.g., Name" or "AthleteFirstName" rather than "AthNm") Excel auto-generates the name phrasings. But there may be others you want to add.

This articleprovides more information about name phrasings.

Noun Phrasings

Noun phrasings define new nouns that describe subsets of things in your model. Noun phrasings often include some type of model-specific measurement or condition. For example, a "flops are movies where net profit < 0" phrasing is needed to ask questions like "count the flops by year". There are two forms of noun phrasings, for use in different situations: simple and dynamic.

This article provides more information about noun phrasings.

Adjective Phrasings

Adjective phrasings can be classified as: simple, dynamic, and measurement.

  • Simple adjective phrasings define a new adjective based on a condition, such as "gold medalist is athlete name where medal class = 1"

  • Dynamic adjective phrasings define a set of new adjectives based on values in a column in the model, such as "colors describe products"

  • Measurement adjective phrasings define a new adjective based on a numeric value that exists in the model, such as "small countryregions have small land areas"

This article provides more information about adjective phrasings.

Preposition Phrasings

Preposition phrasings are used to describe how things in your model are related via prepositions. For example, a “cities are in countries” phrasing improves understanding of questions like “how many Canadian cities hosted Olympics”. Some preposition phrasings are created automatically when a column is recognized as a geographical entity.

This article provides more information about preposition phrasings.

Verb Phrasings

Verb phrasings are used to describe how things in your model are related via verbs. For example, “athletes win medals” improves understanding of questions like “who won pole vault in 1976?” and “what did Apollo Ohno win?” By creating the verb phrasing, you’re teaching Q&A to recognize both the verb itself (win, won) and the relationship (between athletes and medals).

This article provides more information about verb phrasings.

Global Synonyms

If you can’t figure out which type of phrasing to use, try a global synonym. Global synonyms are different than synonyms added in the Synonyms tab – those synonyms are limited to the actual names of the data model tables, columns, and measures.

This article provides more information about global synonyms.

How are phrasings added?

Auto-generated phrasings

Many phrasings are added automatically, based on the structure of the data model and the names you give to the objects. For example:

  • Most columns will be related to their containing table with a simple phrasing like “hosts have flags”

  • Model relationships result in default phrasings for both directions of the relationship like “countryregions have athletes” and “athletes have countryregions”

  • When a new phrasing is added, Q&A is smart enough to add other versions of words where appropriate; for example, plurals, possessives, and other tenses

Manually-added phrasings

Phrasings can be manually added in Power BI for Office 365

Note   Only users with Contribute permissions for the Office 365 Power BI site can add phrasings.

  1. Start in Q&A Optimize view, and select the Phrasings tab.

  2. Select Add Phrasings.

  3. As you start typing your phrasing, Q&A labels terms it recognizes and gives appropriate syntax hints. If you enter invalid content, Q&A will try to provide an explanation as well as a link to “learn more.”

    Add phrasing

    Note   If you type something Q&A does not recognize, the helpful syntax information will disappear and the OK button will become unclickable.

Once you’ve typed a valid phrasing, Q&A displays several usage examples specific to the current workbook. Clicking one of the examples runs that query in the Q&A screen (to the left).

Applies To: Excel 2013, Power BI

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