Keep your online training content clear with these writing tips for e-Learning
Don’t hide the main idea.
Examine each sentence, paragraph and list to make sure the main idea is right at the beginning. You don’t want to make your learner wait until the end to get the main idea. Most learners won’t wait—they’ll get bored or confused, and they’ll skip ahead or miss what you’re trying to teach.
- Here’s an example of a sentence with the main idea buried at the end: A beautiful and fascinating animal in the ocean that has tiny tube feet to help it move along and is related to sand dollars is a starfish. In that sentence, “A starfish” is the main idea, but it’s buried at the end.
- However, this next sentence is upfront with the main idea. Your learners will appreciate this one much more: A starfish is a beautiful and fascinating animal in the ocean that is related to sand dollars and has tiny tube feet to help it move along. See—much clearer!
Keep it simple.
- Simple words
When you’re teaching a new concept or idea, simple words will help you express your message clearly. How do you know if a word is simple or complex? A good general rule is that simple words usually have fewer syllables and are shorter than complex words. A complex word is anything that will force your learner to pause in the course and consider this puzzling word or look up the definition—both are distractions from learning. Simple words create clarity.
- Simple sentences
Add more simple sentences (rather than compound or complex) to improve clarity in your e-Learning writing. This is a good strategy for when you’re explaining an especially complicated idea.
- A simple sentence has one clause. Example: Shrimp are crustaceans.
- Compound and complex sentences join multiple clauses together. Compound example: Shrimp are crustaceans, and they can swim forward or backward. Complex example: Because of their abdominal swimmerets and fanlike tails, shrimp can swim forward and backward.
Simple sentences work similarly to content chunking. Both break up large, possibly overwhelming amounts of information into small, more manageable chunks. Caution: don’t make ALL your sentences simple ones in an effort to create clarity. That would make your content sound very choppy, which could be distracting to your learner. Be strategic, and add simple sentences to your content when you want to improve clarity.
Be concrete, not abstract.
Don’t use tons of abstract jargon in your e-Learning course. Abstract words don’t provide additional value to your course, and your learners will hate taking it. Here are examples of jargon you should avoid writing:
- “Boil the ocean” – Perhaps this refers to the ridiculous amount of time it would take to boil all the water in an ocean. You’re better off just being clear and saying “waste time.”
- “Pearl diving contest” – This is actually an “incentive program to increase sales” and has nothing to do with wetsuits.
- “Paddle on both sides” – Unless your learners are canoeing on their lunch breaks, you should just tell them to “apply maximum effort” to a task.
Apply these writing tips for e-Learning to help you write course content that's clear and effective. When you’re communicating clearly to your learners, you’re succeeding!
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