Why make eLearning scripts more personable? As a writer, I can’t help but pay particular attention to the vital role writing plays in creating great eLearning content. It’s the single-most important aspect of instructional design that makes or breaks a program, course or module. Unfortunately, it is also often among the most-overlooked aspects of eLearning design.
I’ve written about this in the past with the following articles:
- eLearning Content Needs Great Writing
- Writing for eLearning, Part I: Concise and Compelling
- Writing for eLearning, Part II: Clarity
- Writing for eLearning, Part III: 6 Tactical Tips
- Humor in eLearning: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
But something that has come often is how to make eLearning scripts more personable. This article will provide some solid pointers on making it happen.
A Light Tone Will Make eLearning Scripts More Personable
One of the trickiest aspects of writing for eLearning is striking the right tone. If you go too formal, you run the risk of boring your audience. But going too informal can have its drawbacks as well, especially if your audience is expecting something more formal. Knowing your audience is the first step in figuring out that balance. In general, however, it’s good to ere on the side of keeping the tone light. A great example of this is provided by Cammy Bean in her Association for Talent Development (ATD) article, Six Tips for Writing Better eLearning Scripts:
Instead of this: “This e-learning course is designed to explain the 15 steps needed to complete our regulatory process…”
Try this: “Need to get your head around our process? We all do! So let’s take a look at the 15 steps.”
As you can see, this isn’t rocket science, but you do have to practice getting into the mindset of keeping the tone light – and your learners will love you for it!
Conversational Style Will Make eLearning Scripts More Personable
The reason the example above works so well is because the lighter tone is more conversational in how it approaches what is being said. It may not be rocket science, but it might also turn out to be harder than you think. This can be especially true if most of your recent writing experience has been focused on the more formal requirements of academic writing. Again, practice makes perfect. Here are some tips to achieve a more conversational style to make eLearning scripts more personable:
- Read it out loud. If you want your writing to feel more like conversation, read it out loud and you’ll immediately discover whether or not it sounds the way people talk.
- Use contractions. Notice in the example above from Cammy that there are no contractions in the first version, but “let’s” appears in the more conversational, lighter version. Besides that example, there are six other contractions used so far in this article, and they all contribute to keeping the style conversational. Imagine how stilted or formal it would sound if each of those contractions was written out as two words! Use contractions where appropriate without taking it too far.
- First/second person. Nothing screams too formal (and boring) than force-writing everything in the third person. This makes you sound more like a manual than a person having a conversation with your learners. The example from Cammy shows how you can turn most third-person writing into first/second person writing.
- Shorter sentences. I include this one because it’s one I’m still trying hard to get better at. Shorter sentences are better than long, rambling sentences. Reading out loud helps with this one as well. If you can’t get through a sentence without needing to take a breath, it’s probably too long.
- Minimize jargon. If your learners need to reach for a dictionary during a course or module, you need to re-write your content (or make sure definitions are part of the content when needed).
An instructional designer responding to a question described his writing process, which is an interesting approach:
I don’t write scripts first…I jot down some notes and a general outline, think about the characters and how I believe they should be portrayed, and then I have a conversation with myself (playing each part). I record the whole thing, set it aside for a day, listen to the playback and only then do I write the script.
This approach is an exercise in role-laying how the conversational style can be developed, like a verbal mind map, although your co-workers may raise an eyebrow if they overhear you having a conversation with yourself! Just remember that a conversational style will immediately and naturally be more engaging for your learners.
Following the tips and tricks outlined above will make eLearning scripts more personable, which means your learning and training programs will be more engaging and more effective. Start practicing better writing today for the improved eLearning results you want tomorrow!