It’s easy to lose sight of some of the basics when it comes to creating optimal eLearning experiences for your business or organization. It’s even more surprising how often learning professionals forget the most basic starting point of effective eLearning: Great writing. Even when you think about the ubiquity of video content to convey powerful ideas, it’s worth remembering that most of those still start out with writing, whether that’s a script or just a story-board concept.
If you don’t have top-notch writing skills in your learning department, your eLearning efforts are doomed to reside in the halls of mediocrity. Your courses and modules will be dull, lifeless, and even boring (the worst epithet of all for an eLearning initiative). When it comes to creating engaging eLearning courses and modules, the last place you should be cutting corners is the initial writing. Unfortunately, that seems to be the first casualty when time is tight (and when isn’t time tight?). The only answer is to bite the bullet and take the time to write great content. But what makes for great writing? Here are some things to keep in mind:
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Practice Makes Perfect
You probably saw this one coming, right? This old saying may be old, but it’s as true today as it’s ever been, and it especially applies to writing. If you want to sharpen your writing skills, do more writing. Do a LOT of writing, whenever and wherever you can. There is a good deal of research out there that says there’s simply no substitute to putting in the hours to get better at something. Some even say a rule of thumb is 10,000 hours to become world-class at something. I’m not suggesting you need to start clocking 10,000 hours, but significantly upping the time you spend writing certainly won’t hurt.
Keeping it Real
One of the best ways to improve your writing is to see how it sounds when you speak it. When I write, I say the words in my head as I write them, which means it comes out as if I were speaking to the reader. This is obviously the way to go with eLearning scripts since you’re taking what might otherwise be delivered in an instructor-led classroom setting and making it work in the digital learning environment.
The Art of Brevity
You already know that in today’s fast-paced world, learning content needs to be distributed in small chunks that get key concepts across as succinctly as possible. In the words of William Strunk, Jr., in his 1918 Elements of Style, “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” That’s one I’m still working on myself, and it’s essential for the eLearning field. You do want to keep it simple, but keep in mind that simple is not the same as simplistic. Clarity and succinctness are the goals here, not talking down to your audience. No “dumbing-down,” please.
Great writing always tells a compelling, complete story, and that means having a beginning, middle, and end, as well as making sure to present contrasting viewpoints. Bring clear logic and structure to your writing and your learners will love your content.
The Art of Levity
I won’t belabor this one, because I’ve already written about Humor in eLearning: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but suffice it to say that keeping it light goes a long way towards fully engaging your learners – just keep it appropriate.
Know Your Audience
The more you’re familiar with the people for whom you are writing eLearning content, the more you can tailor your writing to what’s going to get the best response from them. Take the time to identify primary characteristics of your audience and keep those in mind when writing.
Those are just six important things to keep in mind when it comes to better writing for eLearning. There are many more to share, so stay tuned for more eLearning writing tips.